Saugus Superintendent breaks silence on Nalen

The Saugus football team held a protest outside Town Hall Monday afternoon. (Owen O'Rourke)

SAUGUS — Saugus School superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi confirmed Thursday that despite a police report that cleared him from any crimes pertaining to an on-field incident last month, football coach Anthony Nalen has not yet been reinstated.

In a statement on school department stationery, DeRuosi said that Michael Mabee, who coached the team in last week’s game at Amesbury in Nalen’s absence, is the interim coach while the issue is resolved.

Last month, on the first day of preseason practice, Nalen is said to have asked a player wearing a pair of shorts that didn’t conform to the team dress code to go into the locker room at the Belmonte Middle School and put on a proper pair of pants. Instead, the police report said, the boy returned to the field in red boxer shorts, which the coaches said they did not notice.

The police report cleared Nalen, but interim chief Ronald Giorgetti pointed out that the document only exonerated the coach of any criminal activity. And DeRuosi confirmed that the department has its own procedures to follow before the matter is resolved, though he didn’t say what those procedures were.

“It’s still a personnel matter,” DeRuosi told The Item Thursday. “There’s still a due process afforded to the school, and there are procedural steps we must follow.

“(Nalen) is on paid leave in the meantime,” DeRuosi said, adding that contained within the formal protocol are steps Nalen can take as well.

DeRuosi also confirmed reports that Nalen’s assistants have been let go.

“They left the field,” he told The Item. “We are in the process of seeking new assistants.”

Nalen’s original assistants declined to coach in his absence, DeRuosi said.

DeRuosi, in the statement, said he was sure that Mabee, a middle school coach who was once the quarterback on the football team in the early 1990s, will succeed.

“I am confident that Mr. Mabee will succeed as a coach and a mentor to the young men and women on our team,” DeRuosi said. “He will be able to as any and all new assistant coaches.”

Within the online advertisement that the school placed in search for a new assistant coach was the announcement that the department has a new athletic director — Terry Pillsbury, whose name was listed as a contact for applicants. She would replace James Bunnell, who resigned just less than a year after he was hired. DeRuosi said Pillsbury would start Sept. 24. She is formerly an athletic trainer at Northeast Regional.

Finally, DeRuosi stressed that this situation, like all personnel matters, was sensitive and that he didn’t want to say anything until he felt there was something to say.

“It would not be fair for me to discuss this personnel issue in a public forum, or with the media,” he said. “I can tell you that our school system’s first priority is the health, well-being, and education of our students. That priority guides all of our decisions and choices, and when we are made aware of a potential issue involving a student or staff member, we proceed carefully and thoughtfully — not hastily — to ensure we fully understand the situation and are equipped to react to it in an appropriate way.

“The best interest of our students and staff members demands that we proceed in such a deliberate fashion,” he said.

Saugus plays at Northeast Regional Friday (6) in Wakefield.

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