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BHPRSD Board Moves to Take Suspended Triton Educators' Pay

Only a handful of residents direct anger at the Black Horse Pike school board and administration in the wake of the Triton High School sex scandal, while others defend the Runnemede school.

The Black Horse Pike Regional School District (BHPRSD) Board of Education on Thursday night unanimously authorized district administrators to stop paying five Triton Regional High School educators suspended in a teacher-student sex case as soon as possible and without requiring further board action.

The five educators charged in the sex scandal—teachers Jeffrey Logandro, 32, Nicholas Martinelli, 28, and Daniel Michielli, 27, and administrators Catherine DePaul, 55, and Jernee Kollock, 39—currently are suspended with pay.

Under New Jersey state law, school districts can only take away suspended educators' paychecks when they have been indicted on criminal charges, tenure charges seeking their termination have been filed, or the state has revoked their education licenses.

BHPRSD attorney John Wade took the majority of questions from the crowd during the meeting. After Thursday night's roughly hour-long session, Wade noted that the board's "hands are tied" as it relates to bringing tenure charges against the suspended educators due to the ongoing nature of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office investigation into alleged faculty misconduct at Triton.

A near standing-room-only crowd filled the Timber Creek Regional High School library and media center for the BHPRSD board's first public meeting since Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk announced charges on Oct. 4 against three teachers accused of sexual relationships with now-former Triton students and two administrators who allegedly tried to sweep a report of teacher-student sex under the rug last spring.

"While we cannot change the past, together we can move the school forward," Superintendent John Golden said at the beginning of the meeting.

Logandro and Michielli—both math teachers—are charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Michielli is additionally charged with second-degree sexual assault.

Their alleged victims were 17 years old.

Martinelli, a gym teacher, is charged only with official misconduct, as his victim was 18 years old at the time of the alleged sexual contact. According to court documents released by the prosecutor's office, Martinelli did not engage in sexual intercourse with the student until after she had graduated from the Runnemede school.

The alleged relationships between the three teachers and three female students took place between November 2011 and June 2012. The prosecutor's office reportedly began its investigation sometime in August.

The teachers were suspended at different times late this summer and early in the 2012-13 school year.

DePaul and Kollock are charged with second-degree official misconduct for allegedly attempting to cover up information of teacher-student sex brought to their attention in April after a student had confided in a substitute teacher. They were suspended Oct. 3.

Kollock left Triton to become vice principal at Timber Creek July 1.

Golden told a concerned Timber Creek parent Kollock's transfer "had nothing to do with anything that took place at Triton." He indicated he and Kollock first discussed the transfer, which reportedly was finalized on April 30, back in March.

Golden read a statement at the beginning of Thursday's meeting in which he noted the prosecutor's office investigation "determined that the incidents were not a failure of our school district's policies and protocols, which have been place for a number of years."

He did add, however, that with social media and text messages "blurring the lines of appropriate interaction," the district is "redoubling" its efforts to educate and monitor "all of our staff, teachers, administrators and students to make the most moral and safe choices both in and out of the classroom."

PR spending questioned, defended

The district estimates it will pay Philadelphia public-relations firm Braithwaite Communications $10,000 to $15,000 for its work handling the "media barrage" following last week's announcement of criminal charges against three teachers and two administrators at Triton, Wade said.

Wade noted Braithwaite charged his firm a $5,000 retainer fee and will bill the district through his firm at an hourly rate.

"Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy will provide the district with a billing statement that will reflect any bills that we pay," he said.

Some residents clearly do not support the district's decision to hire a public-relations firm.

"I think this is a big waste of money," Gloucester Township resident David Gray told the board and district administrators. "You could've probably bought a half-dozen computers with the retainer fee. ... I'm asking all of you board members to fire the public relations company. That's all I'm asking. I think it's a bad idea."

Wade consulted with Golden and other BHPRSD administrators, as well school board President Joyce Ellis and Vice President Kevin Bucceroni, before his firm—Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy—opted to hire Braithwaite on Oct. 4 for what he labeled "crisis management."

BHPRSD does not have a public information officer on its payroll.

"By doing this, we've created a situation that gives the central office and our legal staff more time to deal effectively with the issues that we were dealing with on a 24-hour basis," Wade said.

The board has not yet voted to approve the Braithwaite agreement.

"How is that legal—an expenditure of tax dollars without the approval of this board? That is a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act," Gloucester City resident John Schmidt said. "You cannot spend funds until it is approved at a public meeting and the public has a chance to comment."

"The board has not expended any funds. It is through my law firm that retained the services of the media consultants," Wade responded.

Gloucester Township Patch has submitted an Open Public Records Act request for a copy of the Braithwaite agreement. Wade indicated the district planned to respond to the request, filed on Oct. 5, on Friday.

Alumna stands up for school

Nearly as many speakers at Thursday's meeting defended Triton's staff as questioned decisions made by the board and district in the wake of the prosecutor's office investigation.

Allison McDermott, a 2007 Triton graduate, was one speaker who called on the board and community to not allow the alleged actions of a handful to spoil the school's reputation.

"I truly feel the teachers I had at Triton encouraged me, supported me and helped me become successful," McDermott, a Montclair State University graduate, said. "I ask that the thoughts and actions of the few do not overshadow the wonderful legacy that Triton has and I hope continues to have."

For more on the Triton teacher-student sex charges, visit:

Schu January 12, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Another week gone by more of our money going to the five criminals sitting at home collecting a check.
Angie Jones January 12, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Isn't anyone bothering to follow up on this disgrace? Is there some kind of trial forthcoming?
Sean McCullen (Editor) January 12, 2013 at 05:50 PM
No indictments yet.
Pete Heinbaugh January 12, 2013 at 06:01 PM
Is there any remedy available for BHPRSD to retroactively recover this pay if these men are found guilty?
Sean McCullen (Editor) January 12, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Not sure, Pete. My guess is there is not a way for public entities to recoup money paid to suspended employees, but it's a good question and one I'll seek an answer on.
Mel January 12, 2013 at 06:56 PM
If a school board hires a person they are told is unqualified and subsequently proved to be unqualified for a position, is it possible to recoup that salary?
Hadenough January 12, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Unfortunately, all 5 are still collecting a paycheck. Sentencing is pending. Apparently, one of the 5 charged, is holding things up. Cowards!!!! In my opinion, all 5 are guilty and should step up, take responsibility for what they did. Regardless of the girls’ ages, all 3 teachers broke the law when they made the choice to pursue these girls and the Principle and Vice Principle made the choice to HIDE the fact this was going on. Laws are put in place for a reason. Too much of this is going on. I hope this case sets the example that this type of behavior in unacceptable. And the teachers that kept their mouth shut, knowing full well this was going on, are just as guilty. How do you put your head down on your pillow at night ??? I hope this never happens to anyone they know or to their own kids. If this case doesn’t go the way it should, with at least an Official Misconduct Charge, not sure what will happen. There are a lot of angry parents out there.
Sean McCullen (Editor) January 12, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Still a long way to go before sentencing. There can't be sentencing without either a guilty verdict or a guilty plea. There haven't even been any indictments handed up yet. I would suspect indictments would happen late winter or early spring. My hunch is that short of a guilty plea--I expect there will be at least one in this case--we won't see anyone sentenced till 2014.
Hadenough January 13, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I’m praying that isn’t the case!! Hoping that whoever is causing the holdup will come to their senses and realize that dragging the criminal case on and then having to face a civil suit will not only be detrimental for these girls and their families. But, of course, again, it’s all about them. Everyone is speculating as to what happened. These teachers were idolized by students while having their own agenda. The girls involved were groomed way before this scandal hit the news. EVERYONE in that school knew what was going on and NO ONE STOPPED IT. Makes me sick!! People can have their opinions; blame the parents and even the girls themselves. We live in a twisted society that allows for unaccountability for ones actions. The environment at Triton was/is LAX. I’m not sure this incident has had any effect with faculty and students. If these 5 get away with a slap on the wrist, what kind of message will it send? There is a cloud over that school. Smug attitude and sense of entitlement reeks there! To think that there are good people out of work and trying to provide for their families on what little income they have and these 5 are still getting a paycheck, sitting on their ass’s probably watching Duck Dynasty or Honey Boo Boo. SICKENING!
Darren Gladden January 14, 2013 at 02:16 AM
Who are these Legands that are watching .......
Darren Gladden January 14, 2013 at 02:20 AM
Thanks Bro but you spell me name wrong ;-( ....If you want change people this is the YEAR ........Just look at all the stuff going wrong it is time to CHANGE the top . Mayor needs to go and be ASAP .How do we do that we must all sign on the LINE for new Leadership ........Who wants to be Mayor .I'm looking to work hard to replace where the BUCK should stop .. My ears are open ........
Darren Gladden January 14, 2013 at 02:26 AM
I'm all with you HADENOUGH , Until you had to drag Duck Dynasty into this MUD . Sly and the boys don't need to be brought into this AREA B.S. ..........SMH ,,Just kidding this song is for u http://youtu.be/nSS0wtjrm1U JCID
Hadenough January 14, 2013 at 10:55 AM
LOL ... Thank you Darren! My hope is that this case will not go by the wayside! The school was put in the spotlight for maybe a few weeks. Those girls will be effected for life! The abuse of power at Triton or any school needs to stop.
Hadenough January 15, 2013 at 02:24 PM
The five arrested - teachers, principle and vice principle are technically " STILL" employed !!!! They are still receiving a paycheck ... The board legally can't fire any of them until they are indicted or plead guilty which NONE have done yet. If they plead not guilty and move forward, if a grand jury finds them guilty, they automatically do at least 5 years in jail ! I hope they are found guilty and thrown in prison. Our justice system is one that gives time to those charged to decide how they will plea. Its a game of " chicken". 3 months is LONG ENOUGH to have them sitting around, collecting our money. ALL A GAME !! Its not a game to those families dealing with the aftermath of what occurred. For all those parents out there that put blame on the girls, SHAME ON YOU !! You wouldnt be blaming them if one of them were your daughter. There is something terribly wrong with people today. No one wants to take responsibilty for anything. No one wants to get involved. Its apalling how many people knew about this long before it hit the news. They did NOTHING!! Disgrace!! Our kids are not safe ANYWHERE!
Schu January 17, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Disappointing we are paying their salary while the five arrested criminals are sitting home. For all we know they are texting all over again.
Hadenough January 17, 2013 at 04:38 PM
The real disapointment is in those who run the BHP School District and the Teachers in Triton. Yes, I also agree that they are all home, texting and watching Ellen. At this moment, i hope the thoughts of all that has happend penetrates their brain and triggers a sense of remorse because so far, i havent heard or seen anything that suggests otherwise. DePaul " Hid information to PROTECT her Teachers !" That in itself gives you an idea just how twisted that school is. You not only have the Principle hiding information, but also the Vice Principal??? Are kids aren't safe in that school AT ALL!!!!
True Dat January 17, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Continuing to pay these salaries is outrageous and a slap in the face of every taxpayer in the District. Mr. Golden and BHPRSD officials are acting cowardly, even negligent, in continuing to pay these five individuals. They will tell us that they have no choice; that, contractually, these salaries must be paid. I say, we should all be infuriated by this. I say that the BHPRSD should do the right thing and simply DO NOT pay these individuals. Hold the salary amounts in abeyance or something, but just don't pay them. Whatever is stated in the CBA with the teachers, it surely can't be reasonably interpreted to allow for continuing to pay salaries in a situation like this. If the union would have the gall to protest such an action, they would be crushed and damaged in the court of public opinion. Additionally, the BHPRSD could use the PR firm it hired to get out in front of this maneuver, and let everyone be aware of what is happening.
True Dat January 17, 2013 at 06:17 PM
I also believe that we should all be angered by the BRPRSD's decision to use our tax dollars to hire a PR firm to deal with this incident. Look, when it comes right down to it, most people's jobs are to deal with exceptions. If everything just went smoothly all the time, then monkeys could do it. We elected and hired these folks to do this job, and look what they do...when things get tough, they pay someone else to deal with it, to deal with a situation that occurred under their watch. Appalling. (The reason that was given for hiring the PR firm was so that the firm could deal with the distractions, and allow BHPRSD leaders to continue to do their jobs. So, I'll refrain from suggesting that, given the twisted situation at the school, we would probably be better off if these folks were indeed distracted from doing their jobs.)
Schu January 18, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Another week gone by, more of our money going to the five criminals to sit at home, text young girls with no progress from the county prosecutors office. The school board is silent on the issue because they don't want to take responsibility.
True Dat January 19, 2013 at 12:09 AM
Thanks, Schu, for your continued reminders on this ongoing travesty. Do you know if there was any mention of this at Thursday's BHPRSD public meeting?
True Dat January 19, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Thanks, Schu, for your continued reminders on this ongoing travesty. Do you know if there was any mention of this at Thursday's BHPRSD public meeting?
Schu January 25, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Been another week and the five criminals are still getting paid to sit home collecting a taxpayer funded check. Our elected BOE refuse to take responsibility by sweeping the entire scandal under the rug.
Hadenough January 31, 2013 at 04:52 PM
The five educators charged in the sex scandal—teachers Jeffrey Logandro, 32, Nicholas Martinelli, 28, and Daniel Michielli, 27, and administrators Catherine DePaul, 55, and Jernee Kollock, 39—currently are suspended with pay.
Schu February 08, 2013 at 03:35 PM
The first full week of February and we're still paying these "adults" are getting a paycheck.
True Dat February 08, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Schu, In the Pine Hill teacher scandal, according to the Phila Inquirer, the alleged perpetrator was originally suspended with pay in March 2011; then on Wednesday was suspended without pay. We need to grill the BHPRSD Board as to why they don't have the wherewithal to now stop paying the five educators charged in this sex scandal—teachers Jeffrey Logandro, 32, Nicholas Martinelli, 28, and Daniel Michielli, 27, and administrators Catherine DePaul, 55, and Jernee Kollock, 39. The next BHPRSD Public Board meeting is 7:00PM, Thursday Feb. 21, at Triton HS.
True Dat February 08, 2013 at 04:36 PM
CORRECTION - According to the BHPRSD schedule, and verified over the phone, there are two BHPRSD Public Board meetings in February: 7:00PM, Thursday Feb. 14, at Triton HS 7:00PM, Thursday Feb. 21, at Triton HS
Sean McCullen (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 04:47 PM
The difference is the Pine Hill teacher has been indicted by a grand jury. That's why he is now suspended WITHOUT pay, nearly 2 years after the suspension took affect. The Triton educators have not been indicted. Until they are, they're going to get paid. It's really that simple. It may stink for taxpayers, but that's how the system works. You can't, under state law, take educators' pay in the absence of an indictment or the filing of tenure/termination charges--the latter of which rarely precede the former in cases of alleged criminal conduct.
Sean McCullen (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 04:51 PM
I'm curious whether the district can/will sue to recoup the money paid to the suspended educators since their suspensions began if there ultimately are convictions or guilty pleas entered. We'll see.
Bill Lemon March 16, 2013 at 04:47 AM
I don't believe the student was coerced to change her testimony as much as her story was rewritten to fit what the administrators wanted to "spin". The whole thing was a mess and no-one but no-one had the guts to do what was right. Not the administrators, teachers, or those "poor tortured' students who were so taken advantage of and were in no possible way culpable for their own actions; such as hanging out in the weight room after school hours dressed rather provocatively while one of the accused teachers was working out . I'm quite sure the teachers got what they rightly deserved for their stupidity. My only hope is that these poor "victimized" students remain prisoners of their own consciences as no one else seems to want to hold them responsible in any way. The Devil tempted Eve,who tempted Adam and paradise was lost and we've learned precious little since that time. We are all culpable and responsible as we pay our taxes to a corruptible system and never expect more than the status quo.

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