Fitts named interim superintendent of Coatesville schools

Leonard Fitts will lead Coatesville's schools for now.
Leonard Fitts will lead Coatesville's schools for now.
Posted: October 31, 2013

COATESVILLE Leonard Fitts is now in the eye of the storm.

In yet another move to distance itself from the troubling text message scandal that has rocked - and divided - the community, the Coatesville Area School District board announced on Tuesday that Fitts, a veteran New Jersey educator, will take over as interim superintendent starting Wednesday.

Fitts, 73, most recently served as interim superintendent for the Berlin Township School District in Camden County. He replaces interim superintendent Angelo Romaniello, who will return to his role as assistant superintendent.

The district will pay Fitts $850 per day as needed and contribute to his retirement fund.

"I will stay focused on ensuring that we provide the highest quality of education for the students," Fitts said. "I'm looking forward with great delight in providing the leadership and working with all of you - the staff and the community - in a collaborative manner to continue to move the district forward."

The previous superintendent, Richard Como, resigned at the start of the school year after racist and sexist text messages about students and staff he exchanged with athletic director James Donato were discovered and made public. Donato also resigned.

School Board President Neil Campbell said Tuesday that board members unanimously agreed that they should hire a new interim superintendent from outside the district.

"We felt that in order for this community to continue to heal and move forward, this is something that we have to do," Campbell said.

Board member Tonya Thames Taylor said Fitts was highly recommended by those who worked with him.

"It has been a challenge," she said of the weeks since the scandal broke. "But it also provided an opportunity to grow, learn, and get it right."

Fitts, who has also served as interim superintendent in Willingboro, Glassboro, and Camden, and as a county superintendent in Union County, N.J., agreed not to pursue the permanent position.

He said one of his main goals was to improve communication between the district and residents and suggested periodic newsletters.

Fitts earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Tuskegee Institute, his master's of business administration at Drexel University, and his doctorate in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He was one of five considered for the interim position.

The board also announced that it was working with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to find a permanent superintendent, ideally within the next six months, Campbell said. He said the board would ask for input from parents, teachers, students, and other residents.

Since news of the scandal broke, some residents have said at rallies, marches, and school board meetings that they want all nine board members, Romaniello, and district solicitor James Ellison to step down because of perceived mismanagement of the scandal and a delay in disclosing the reason behind Como's resignation.

Last week, Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan released a statement saying the board was hindering his investigation into kickbacks mentioned in the text exchanges between Como and Donato. Hogan also said his office was investigating Ellison and his law firm, Rhoads & Sinon, over possible fraud by overbilling.

Campbell said Tuesday he would not comment on any investigation.

Hogan also has said the district has harassed and intimidated the two school officials who exposed the text messages, director of technology Abdallah Hawa and Teresa Powell, who has served as acting assistant superintendent since the resignations. Hawa and Powell have also said the district has kept them from their full duties.

The board announced that Powell will return to her previous role as director of middle school education.


mbond@philly.com610-313-8105

@MichaelleBond

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