Eastern Regional High School parents unable to speak about former football coach at BOE meeting

The board solicitor says this new law is due to a ruling made last week in the state’s second highest court, stating one cannot mention someone’s name if he or she wasn’t given notice.

During the first public comment portion of the Eastern Regional High School Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, Voorhees resident Joe Donahue tried to speak about the resignation of Eastern head football coach Danny Boguszewski and all the positive things he did as a coach and mentor.

Boguszewski was the coach from 2013 until last month when he resigned.

However, Donahue couldn’t speak, board president Bob DeCicco interrupted, saying “the board has nothing on the agenda tonight as far as football coaching.”

He continued to say that no individual had been advised they would be discussed at the meeting and asked Donahue to talk in generality and not use any names.

Eastern Regional Board of Education Solicitor Anthony Padovani gave further explanation as to why the Donahue’s couldn’t speak during the public session.

“Last week, the state’s second highest court, the appellate division, made a ruling with respect to a rice notice,” he said. “A Rice Notice is a notice that you have to send someone if anyone’s going to talk about them at all. This comes from a 1977 case called Rice vs. Union City Regional School Board. For the most part, Rice Notices were handled that way if they were on the agenda.”

Padovani continued to say the court stated anytime a person’s name comes up during local board meetings, one cannot mention the name or cannot talk about that person if he or she wasn’t given notice.

“They made it a very big deal for local school boards to be very strict with respect to speaking about an individual’s employment, work ethic, anything with respect to that individual,” he said.

Padovani told Donahue he didn’t mean to cut him off, “but we not have to abide by last week’s ruling.”

Donahue’s wife, Derri, asked if they could say the person’s title instead of their name. Padovani responded by saying it was a good question, but he didn’t know.

“You could read the lingo on your own by Googling it,” he said. “They were very specific. The court did not mention people that weren’t told they were going to be talked about.”

Superintendent Harold Melleby Jr. said over the course of the last few weeks, he’s received three communications in writing and assured the Donahues they were shared with the board members. Since the Donahues were not able to speak, they handed Melleby a copy of their letter.

“I was dumbstruck when they came up and stopped us right away before we had any opportunity to say anything and just shut us down with whatever this new law is,” Derri said. “Forty years and they just passed something last week? So now we can’t say anything? The solicitor pretty much admitted he didn’t know what the law was.”

After the meeting, Padovani said even though Boguszewski is still employed in the school district as a health and physical education teacher, because he is no longer employed as a football coach, no comments could be made about him.

“I think every case is different,” Padovani said. “In this particular case, they were making comments on what a fine individual he was as a football coach, so it dealt with his employment, and because he had just resigned as the football coach, he was no longer of the employ of the district. If they wanted to talk about him as a teacher, I don’t think it would have been the same situation.”