School official reassures parents in wake of scandal

Teacher accused of sexually assaulting student is fired


Staff Writer

Leonard G. Schnappauf, superintendent/principal of Shore Regional High School, West Long Branch, wants parents to know their children are safe.

Schnappauf also made an appeal, in the wake of an alleged sex scandal involving a teacher and student at the school, for anyone who knows of suspected inappropriate behavior by a staff member to tell him.

“If people come forward and give me names, I will act immediately,” he said.

But he wants parents to also know “that at Shore Regional we have an incredibly fine staff.”

The Shore Regional High School Board of Education acted swiftly last week to terminate the contract of Bill O’Leary from both his teaching job and his basketball coaching position after O’Leary was charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a minor.

By acting to fire O’Leary before school opened, the board prevented him from gaining tenure. He had been at the high school for three years.

O’Leary had been awarded a new contract for the upcoming school year by the board in April, along with other teachers, but it wasn’t effective until Sept. 1. If he had taught one day, he would have gained tenure.

Monmouth County Prosecutor John A. Kaye said O’Leary, of Manasquan, had engaged in a longtime sexual relationship with a female student. He said the sexual activities began when the girl was 14 and have continued until the present. The girl, now 18, graduated from Shore Regional in June, according to Kaye.

The Board of Education took the action at a hastily called meeting held Aug. 31. After meeting in executive session behind closed doors for more than an hour, the board voted unanimously, 8-0, without comment on the one motion it was considering — to terminate O’Leary.

While board members did not disclose the details of their private discussion, several members said it ran the full gamut of the possible actions they could take, which presumably included suspension.

Board President Ted Szczurek, of Oceanport, was absent from the meeting, and board member Diane Merla, of West Long Branch, the immediate past president, attended the meeting but immediately excused herself from participating in the discussion and vote for personal reasons.

Asked after the meeting if O’Leary might be rehired in the future if he is shown to be innocent of the charges against him, Schnappauf said he would have to reapply for the job. O’Leary taught physical education and basic skills math. He also was head basketball coach and head baseball coach.

In the past, O’Leary had been assistant football coach.

In the last school year, 2003-04, O’Leary was paid a salary of $51,500. He also earned another $7,162 as head basketball coach, $5,835 as head baseball coach and $5,271 as assistant football coach — for a total pay of $69,768.

This year, his salary was scheduled to go up to $55,650 and he was to get another $7,312 as head basketball coach, for a total pay of $62,962.

O’Leary was terminated as a teacher and as basketball coach. No action was taken on the baseball coaching job because it had not been awarded as yet.

Schnappauf said the school would have a substitute teacher fill his job in physical education, but would cover the math classes with existing staff.

No special arrangements were put in place for the students’ return to school on Tuesday with regard to O’Leary’s dismissal and the charges in the case.

“Normalcy is what we’re striving for,” Schnappauf said. “The goal right now is to make sure when the students come to school it is orderly, so there is no disruption in their life.”

Schnappauf met with the faculty on Sept. 1 when the teachers returned for two days of pre-opening staff meetings, and advised them of the status of O’Leary and the charges.

“I told my faculty, ‘This is an ongoing investigation and there is to be no discussion of it,’ ” Schnappauf added. “They have concern for both families.”

Schnappauf said the school board is “an incredibly caring board,” and in arriving at their decision considered both “the family of the accused and the alleged victim.” Asked if they felt secure in their action, he replied, “Based on what we know, there is enough from the county prosecutor to make this decision.”

Schnappauf said O’Leary was the first teacher at the school terminated for this type of incident.

Schnappauf said the school has policies about what is appropriate behavior between staff and students which they go over every year at this time.

The superintendent stressed that if anyone knows of any issues in that regard they should report them.

“If they know anything — rumors — they should come forward,” he said.

Schnappauf said he was advised by the prosecutor’s office of the charges the previous Friday morning. O’Leary had been arrested the night before.

“Like anyone else, I was shocked and dismayed,” he said. “I didn’t know [about it]. If my board or my staff knew, I would have been the one to call the police and prosecutor.”