Past and present members of the Mattituck baseball program and residents in the district are expected to attend Thursday’s Board of Education meeting in support of Steve DeCaro, the varsity coach and high school physics teacher who was removed from the classroom last week for an undisclosed reason.
Board president Charles Anderson confirmed that Mr. DeCaro, who teaches the school’s AP physics class, was not currently in the classroom. He declined to provide further details citing a personnel decision. He said the 6:30 p.m. board meeting Thursday would be held in the high school auditorium instead of the library to accommodate the larger than normal crowd.
“For us not being able to tell the entire situation creates a lot of frustration for parents, which I can understand, but legally I cannot talk about it,” Mr. Anderson said.
He said he couldn’t comment on what the process would be going forward to determine whether Mr. DeCaro returns to his teaching duties. Mr. Anderson plans to read a statement at the board meeting about the situation where he’ll also explain how board members cannot comment further on the decision. Residents will be granted the opportunity to speak.
“As long as people are respectful, they can speak to us,” he said. “We’re going to respectfully listen to their comments.”
In an Oct. 12 email sent to parents, high school principal Shawn Petretti said Mr. DeCaro had not been in the class “for the past few days.”
“At this time, we are unable to determine a possible return date, nor are we able to share details about his absence as this is a matter of personnel,” Mr. Petretti wrote.
Mr. Petretti added that he and superintendent Jill Gierasch are reaching out to qualified teachers across Long Island to find a replacement to take over Mr. DeCaro’s classes during his absence. Ms. Gierasch began a five-year contract as superintendent Aug. 1.
In a statement to The Suffolk Times, Ms. Gierasch said she understands parents and the community have questions regarding Mr. DeCaro.
“Mr. DeCaro is entitled to his right to privacy so I am unable to share the details regarding this decision,” she said. “Our top priority is to always ensure that our students are educated in a safe and secure environment that promotes success. I want to share with our parents that we are progressing in securing a physics teacher who can fulfill our instructional needs and will support our goals for all students. In addition, we will be providing some after-hours instruction for those students who may feel they need extra support over the next two weeks. I will be keeping parents and the community informed as we move forward and I am hopeful that a replacement can be approved very soon.”
Mr. DeCaro said Wednesday afternoon he could not comment “since I know little myself.”
Mr. DeCaro has been a teacher in the district for 17 years. His future as varsity baseball coach also remains unclear. The Board of Education approved him as the varsity coach for the upcoming spring season at the July 9 meeting, according to minutes from the meeting.
He’s coached the baseball team since 2003 and has tallied a record of 238-139-1. He led the team to a state championship in 2015 and was named Suffolk County Coach of the Year by Newsday that season. He earned that honor again in 2017 after leading the Tuckers to the Long Island championship.
Marcos Perivolaris, an all-Long Island shortstop on the 2015 state championship team, wrote an impassioned defense of his former coach to The Suffolk Times in advance of Thursday’s board meeting.
“He pushed me to new limits and treated me, as well as the other 100 students, like we were his children,” said Mr. Perivolaris, who’s a junior at SUNY/Cortland where he plays baseball. “He brought life, energy and a unique personality into the classroom for which I am forever grateful.”
The Mattituck-Cutchogue Teachers Association declined an interview but said in a statement Tuesday, Oct. 23:
“The Mattituck-Cutchogue Teachers Association is humbled and thankful that we work in a community of supportive parents, students and alumni. Our union draws strength from this support as we advocate with administrators and the Board of Education to defend and support our teachers.”
WITH BOB LIEPA
Photo caption: Mattituck baseball coach Steve DeCaro coaches third base during a playoff game in 2017. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)
CORRECTION: A quote attributed to Mr. DeCaro was said Wednesday, not Monday.