NUTLEY, NJ - The Nutley Board of Education passed a resolution regarding a personnel matter following public outcry about statements made by Athletic Director Joe Piro at an event in Madison NJ earlier this month.
Prior to the meeting, people standing at the entrance of the John H. Walker Middle School auditorium asked those entering if they were planning to speak at public comments. Those people were then directed to the sign up table near the stage area.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, BOE President Danny Carnicella opened the meeting stating that the public comments portion of the meeting would be limited to a 30 minute period and each speaker would be limited to three minutes. Speakers were called from the afore mentioned sheet to speak to the board. Not everyone who had hoped to address the board was able to do so.
One by one, speakers were called to the microphone.
The first speaker Bill Edelman, drove to the meeting from his home in Delaware to speak on Piro's behalf. He spent 25 years as the Athletic Director in Vernon. Edelman stated that Piro grew and built relationships within the sports community, and had a knack for making others feel special. "Joe made a mistake and for this he apologized," he told the board, "Good kids like adults sometimes do bad things, that doesn't make them a bad person."
Edelman was referring to an unscripted speech about leadership given by Piro earlier this month in Madison. In that speech he used Adolph Hitler as an example of a person with strong leadership skills, but who used those skills for evil. A social media storm followed alleging the speech was praising the German Chancellor. .
Ron Bliet spoke about how Piro is a leader in the county, and made Essex one of the leading conferences in the state.
Steve Timko, who held leadership positions in NJSIAA and worked for decades in athletics, described Piro as someone who is always doing the best, and spoke about how "words chosen on the spot" instead of in a prepared statement, can result in unfortunate situations.
Ted D'Alessio, a retired athletic director from Millburn, read off a list of Piro's accomplishments and awards. He described Piro as the "go-to guy in the state" and referred to Nutley as role model district because of Piro's work. He even shared how Joe has always expressed his concern, and made time for, Alession's autistic daughter.
Sean Dowling, the athletic director in Madison, said "What better person to talk about leadership than Joe Piro, Joe never glorified Hitler." Students in that district had shared with him that there are effective leaders who are bad people.Dowling told the Nutley BOE that he polled students and coaches, and most understood Piro's message.
Seth Rosenberg, who repeated his last name 'Rosenberg' to highlight his heritage, referred to Piro as a mentor and friend, and a friend to all. He referred to Piro's mistake as one that was not made in malice, and added that this will be a teachable moment including the lesson of forgiveness.
A Nutley resident, Alex D'Antonio, then approached the microphone to share how the speech never should have been made, and shared some other concerns he had about Piro. He reached the three minute mark and could not continue..
Greg Butler, another AD who spent 36 years in education, reported that Joe Piro has a heart of gold. The father of NHS graduates said that "Joe is a leader."
Nutley's head football coach Steve DiGregorio spoke of "Joe's heart," and shared a story of how Piro took it upon himself to do the sheetrock work in the Nutley High School weigh room. He also spoke of his son Derrick's medical issues. DiGregorio shared how Piro stepped up to the plate more than once to help raise funds for the family. He concluded his address to the BOE by stating that he is looking forward to working with Piro for years to come.
Dennis Nelson, athletic director at Rivedale, said Piro demonstrated superior leadership skills on the local, county, and state level. He desribed the event as a misunderstanding of a historical reference.
Jessie Adler was the last person to make a public comment. He described his family heritage as Jewish on both side, but he also went to Bergen Catholic. He described Piro as someone who "bleeds Maroon." He made the point that "one mistake should not define a man."
At this point public comment reached the 30 minute mark, and that portion of the meeting was closed by the board president. Several members of the assembled audience began to shout about letting the people speak At this point a motion was made to move into closed executive session. The closed executive session lasted nearly two hours.
Upon returning, a motion was made for a resolution to place an employee, identified only by their employee ID number on suspension in accordance with NJ SA18A:25.6. It was stated that the superintendent of schools can then reinstate the person in accordance with a reentry plan. Given that this is a personnel matter, the term and length of the suspension were cannot be made public, the board was not permitted to identify the employee by name.
Nutley Board of Education trustees Ken Reilly and Fred Scalera were not in attendance for the meeting.
Since 2016, TAPintoNutley.net has been the only locally owned news organization serving the Township of Nutley, and is a member of the New Jersey Press Association. The Nutley Board of Commissioners made TAPintoNutley.net the township's 'Official Electronic News Source' starting in 2019.
Got a news tip? email us at Nutley@TAPinto.net