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Top stories of 2018: Absence of longtime teacher sparks outrage

A sea of about 200 people — students, parents, alumni and members of Mattituck High School’s baseball program — attended the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education meeting Oct. 16 and spoke in support of longtime physics teacher and baseball coach Steve DeCaro, who had been placed on administrative leave for an undisclosed reason. 

Twenty-six people approached the microphone during the more than two-hour meeting to express concern about Mr. DeCaro’s absence and describe what they feel is a changing culture in the district.

Marguerite Kitz, a longtime teacher at Wading River Elementary School, said removing Mr. DeCaro jeopardized the quality of the community. Her son, Jack, who was a student at Mattituck, loved Mr. DeCaro, she said.

“He has this sense of community that we moved here for,” Ms. Kitz said. “It would be so sad to lose our incredible sense of community … I am proud to say that I live in Mattituck. I don’t want that to change.”

That night, school board president Charles Anderson announced that the administration was investigating the situation and that only the board could determine Mr. DeCaro’s future in the district. Citing a personnel decision, board members and district Superintendent Jill Gierasch declined to provide further details.

Former Mattituck High School physics teacher Tom Tomaszewski has replaced Mr. DeCaro during his administrative leave. 

Mr. Tomaszewski currently teaches physics and AP physics in the district. The teacher sent a letter to physics students and parents introducing himself Nov. 1. He said he had no knowledge of the reason for the decision that brought him back to the district and empathized with parents who expressed their concerns.

“My interest is in providing an experienced and professional learning environment for your son or daughter so that they may appreciate and hopefully love the science of physics,” Mr. Tomaszewski wrote. “I have had the pleasure of having students redirect their future studies toward a physical science profession — a highly rewarding outcome for any teacher.”

The reason for Mr. DeCaro’s absence has still not been disclosed. He remains on administrative leave and on the district payroll. 

Photo caption: Steve DeCaro, who coached the varsity baseball team as well.