Parents and community call for board president’s resignation

Dr. Brian Repici dismisses rumors of replacement

 

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun

Every seat in the cafeteria was filled at the June 22 Black Horse Pike Regional School District’s (BHPRSD) Board of Education meeting, after parents and other members of the community saw a screenshot of a post circulating on Facebook.

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The post claimed that some members of the board wanted to remove Dr. Brian Repici as superintendent and replace him with Board President Michael Eckmeyer.

That part of the post was later refuted by township Solicitor Dan Long, board member Kevin Bucceroni and Eckmeyer. Long said Repici is on year three of a five-year contract, and Bucceroni and Eckmeyer denied any conversations about replacing him.

Though the source is unclear, the post also urged people to come to the Black Horse Pike district board meeting, given that “Eckmeyer was previously suspended from his position as supervisor at Sterling High School due to allegations of sexual harassment” and that “the (Sterling) board’s investigation found he did violate its sexual harassment policy. Subsequently, Mr. Eckmeyer resigned from his position.”

Prior to becoming board president, Eckmeyer was the director of Student and Personal Services at Sterling. The Sterling district found that he violated the school’s sexual harassment policy, and as a result, Eckmeyer was suspended. He later resigned in September 2018.

The violations included sending emails and text messages with sexual overtones to a female subordinate. A decision on the incidents by the New Jersey Commissioner of Education was released in April 2019 and is publicly available online.

That report was released several months before Eckmeyer ran unopposed for the Black Horse Pike district’s board presidency in November 2019. Though Repici was unaware of the rumor that he would be replaced, nearly everyone in the audience at the board session was under the impression that he was soon going to be replaced by Eckmeyer.

When it was time for public comments, the audience shared its praise for Repici and disgust at the allegations, airing scathing remarks about Eckmeyer’s alleged sexual harassment.

“The audacity of you to run for the school board in the first place is astounding,” said Stacy Compitello, a parent at Timber Creek High School.

“ … How can you think that us, as parents, can think that his decision making can be impartial and just, if the case comes across all of you that entails sexual harassment among staff members, students or whatever?”

Simone Colancecco, the confirmed victim of the harassment in the report, also spoke.

“You really thought he was appropriate to be in a position of power?” she asked. “If he (Eckmeyer) abused that power and harassed me as the special-services supervisor, what would he do as the superintendent? You want to give him more power over more women?”

Colancecco also said she was disappointed by board members who knew about the sexual harassment and still allowed Eckmeyer to serve, given that the report is publicly available online and comes up in a Google search.

“What does this say to our boys?” asked parent Jen Davis. “… ‘It’s okay, we got you. You can lead, you can be in a position of leadership.’ It’s just not the women that we have to be accountable to, it’s also the men. This is unacceptable.”

When a longtime friend of Eckmeyer’s spoke on his behalf at the board meeting, reminding the crowd that the board is made up of volunteers and that there are two sides to every story, attendees began to boo. They continued to express disappointment throughout the rest of the session, requested more accountability and called for Eckmeyer’s resignation.

When it came time for board comments, the rumor that Repici was being replaced was addressed. Bucceroni was the first to speak. As noted above, he said Repici is not being replaced, nor has it been discussed. Board members then took turns responding to the question, “Why are you here?” and shared why they were serving on the board. Most board members offered reassurance that the public comments were heard loud and clear.

“Being on this board is an honor and a privilege, and I heard and took in every single word that all of you have said,” member Jennifer Storer said. “I’ve taken it in my heart, and I will continue to work for all of you, because I believe in what we say.”

Her sentiments were echoed by fellow board members Kaitlyn Hutchinson, Patricia Wilson and Dr. Joyce Ellis.

“Please accept the fact that we care,” Ellis requested. “I care; always have. I appreciate the fact that you took time out of your busy schedule to be here.”

Kevin McElroy said he was on the board to ensure a better education for his children.

The last two speakers were Eckmeyer and board Vice President Jay McMullin. Eckmeyer echoed Bucceroni, and dismissed the rumors about Repici’s replacement.

“I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Repici and the rest of the board for the next couple years of his contract,” Eckmeyer said.

McMullin tried to enter into executive session without speaking, but was called out by the crowd.

“Folks, I’m blown away,” he revealed. “I’ve been on the board for 12 years. I’ve worked very hard with the other board members. I’ve donated a lot of time. We don’t get paid, and this is the thanks we get.”

The next board meeting has not yet been scheduled. To stay up to date, visit https://www.bhprsd.org/Page/371.

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