WAYLAND — The recent arrest of a former high school athletic director in Wayland for allegedly keeping a school computer after losing his job drew angry remarks from several residents at a School Committee meeting Monday.
Stephen Cass, 49, whose contract as athletic director was not renewed by the district at the end of the last school year in June, was arrested on Oct. 25 by Wayland police and charged with larceny over $250 and receiving stolen property over $250, according to authorities. He pleaded not guilty and the case was continued to Dec. 18, according to the Framingham District Court clerk’s office.
“I think it was really over the top,” Rick Greene, one of the residents, told the committee. “It’s not just the impact it had on the individuals involved, but it really is a black mark on our school administration and also sadly against our police department. I hope in the future such situations are handled in a more level-headed and proportionate fashion.”
Police said last week they obtained a search warrant following a complaint from the school department concerning the computer.
But Cass in a Globe report said he had been authorized by a school employee to take the laptop, which he called an “old beat-up clunker of a computer.”
Molly Upton, another resident, told the School Committee Monday night that the episode has “risen to the level of a town issue. It’s really impacting the public perception of the town, and it’s very disturbing.”
In an e-mail to the Globe last week, Schools Superintendent Paul Stein said, “The former athletic director reported that he had returned his school department-issued computer, an assertion which we took at his word. In conducting a routine inventory of the district’s laptops, the IT Department concluded that this computer was in fact missing.”
The district advised Cass in May that his contract as athletic director was not being renewed. Cass followed with a May 19 letter to the School Committee alleging “many disturbing practices,” including misused funds, inadequate background checks for coaches, and funding favoring boys’ teams in violation of Title IX, the federal gender anti-discrimination law.
He claims his contract was not renewed because of his attempts to improve practices and from concerns he expressed in an e-mail to the superintendent.
The district decided in June to ask outside agencies including the state Inspector General’s office to investigate Cass’ allegations.
Stein said in an e-mail to the Globe Monday that the district has “not been informed by these agencies as to the current status of their review of these matters.” He said the exception was the state Attorney General’s Public Charities Division, which in June advised the district that it was not subject to its oversight.
The district in July also decided to undertake a community survey to seek views on the athletic department.
Stein in his Monday e-mail said students, faculty, parents, and community members have completed the study, which is being is being conducted by the Northeastern Center for the Study of Sport in Society. He said the center is now conducting follow-up focus groups and is expected to report its findings in January.
The supporters of Cass voiced their comments to the School Committee after the panel held a closed-door session to address an unspecified “investigation of charges of criminal misconduct.”
While only two residents spoke at the meeting, about two dozen were on hand and several echoed the criticisms outside the committee room.
“Why didn’t the superintendent simply pick up the phone and say ... ‘would you be good enough to make sure [the computer] is back in our property?’ ” said Colin Steel. “Why did he have to go the way that he went? It’s absolutely disgraceful what is going on.”
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.