The former Bellport High School principal, who is alleging that he was fired last school year because he refused to change the grade of a high school football player, will file a wrongful-termination lawsuit against superintendent Joe Cipp Jr. and other administrators.
The former principal, Kevin O’Connell, said at a press conference on Tuesday he was “expected by my immediate supervisors to do something that is contrary to procedure and process,” when he was allegedly asked to boost the grades of Ryan Sloan, who is now a freshman at Syracuse University.
O’Connell said he was terminated after he refused to instruct a math teacher to adjust Sloan’s grades, in order for him to earn a full athletic scholarship to Syracuse. Sloan and Cipp have denied the claims made by O’Connell, who is now an administrator at Roosevelt High School. Cipp has also served as the school’s football coach and gained “legendary” status for turning around the football program, O’Connell said.
“He is the man of the town,” O’Connell added.
But Cipp never directly instructed O’Connell to change the grade, the former principal said. “The only comment made was that he needed to have a [certain grade],” said O’Connell. “And that’s where the comments stopped.”
O’Connell’s attorney said they plan to sue for $1 million.
After he was approached by officials to see what can be done about the student’s grades, O’Connell said he had a conversation with the math teacher regarding Sloan’s performance in the classroom, and also explained to administrators that the school would provide him with whatever academic intervention he needed to properly prepare him for the final exam.
“That was received with less than enthusiasm by the superintendent of schools,” O’Connell said.
He added: “I was put in a position where I was fully expected to alter grades for a particular student who was in line to expect a scholarship.”
O’Connell was terminated shortly after his refusal, he said, and wasn’t provided with a documented explanation for his dismissal. He had the ability to receive an official reason in writing within 60 days of his termination, but said he never went that route. O’Connell said that the reason for his firing voiced to him by an administrator was there were “drastic changes” being made.
When administrators were unsuccessful with instructing O’Connell to assist the student, school officials had a secretary go into the system and change the grade, the former principal told the New York Post.
O’Connell said when he was first hired he was told the school’s mission statement was “win on Saturday.”
The attorney for South Country School District wasn’t immediately available for comment.