Onteora Athletic Director Kim Pilla returned to her position January 27 after the school board deadlocked on a separation agreement and appointment of a former AD as an interim replacement.
Coaches circulated an email sent January 26 after the school board meeting from Superintendent Victoria McLaren to staff asking them to welcome Pilla back. McLaren confirmed the email and Pilla’s return as director of Physical Education, Athletics and Health and Dean of Students.
Pilla was placed on paid administrative leave which ended January 26. Neither school board president Laurie Osmond nor Superintendent McLaren have given a reason for the leave, citing the inability to comment on personnel matters.
The lack of explanation prompted attendance of more than 100 coaches, parents and former and current students at each of three meetings — last night’s videoconference school board meeting and two previous sessions. Nearly two dozen people spoke at the January 26 meeting.
The board vote on a separation agreement with Pilla and McLaren’s recommendation to appoint former athletic director Nicholas Millis as interim AD resulted in a tie, so they failed due to lack of majority.
Voting in favor were trustees Bennet Radcliff, Kevin Salem and Valerie Storey. Voting against the measures were president Osmond, vice president Rob Kurnit and trustee Dafne DeJesus.
Trustee Emily Sherry was present earlier in the meeting but left due to an emergency before the vote.
Many of those who spoke voiced strong disappointment for what they thought was going to be Pilla’s removal, saying their actions will have consequences in the next school board election. Some vowed to encourage defeat of the budget in protest.
“Today you have a disappointed community, disappointed coaches and disappointed kids,” said junior varsity girls’ basketball coach Marc Wilens. “There is no doubt in my mind this did not have to happen,” he said, accusing the board and administration of being out of touch with the community.
“We need to step up as adults and give these kids the absolute best experience they can get in the short time they have at Onteora,” parent and former Onteora football coach Dave Alterio said.
“If we need a new slate of board members at Onteora, then that’s part of the process.”
Parent Todd Adelman spoke of the confusion and lack of transparency throughout the last few months.
“If someone was watching from afar, they’d be actually dumbfounded.”
Millis, the candidate for Pilla’s interim replacement, held the position at Onteora from summer 2009 through September 2014. He held various positions elsewhere including at Sullivan County BOCES and most recently as a middle school principal in Monticello until March 2020.