WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The 22News I-Team has discovered the former principal of a Westfield school was investigated nearly 15 years ago for alleged inappropriate behavior with a student in Adams.
Salvatore Frieri is the former Principal of Munger Hill Elementary School in Westfield. He was then hired as principal of Lenox Memorial Middle and High School in the Berkshires over the summer. Frieri resigned from that job this week.
He told the 22News I-Team, “due to signed agreements, I’m unable to disclose much, other than it was not related in any way to my performance… I had to resign for personal reasons.”
Allegations of inappropriate behavior nearly 15 years ago have now emerged. The 22News I-Team has obtained a police report dated December 18, 2008, that shows Frieri was investigated for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old student when he was a substitute teacher at Berkshire Arts and Technology (BART) Charter Public School in Adams.
The police report states the 15-year-old student was “seen riding in Frieri’s car as he left the parking lot” on December 11, 2008 when school was let out early because of inclement weather. It took two hours to bring the student home to Clarksburg – a trip that usually takes about 20 minutes. The police report goes on to say “this violates school policy, and at no time did Frieri notify or seek permission from school officials or (redacted) legal guardian.”
After the alleged incident, he was fired, according to the police report. He was 27 years old at the time. He was never charged with anything in connection to this incident.
POLICE REPORT: Berkshire Arts & Tech Charter
STATEMENT: Salvatore Frieri
In a statement to the I-Team, Frieri said, “The allegations from my time as a sub at BART were for driving a student home after an early dismissal due to bad weather. They were thoroughly investigated by DCF as well as the police and both came back with absolutely no concerns. BART determined that I was not in compliance with its code of conduct. I have had no discipline of any kind in any subsequent position and I stand by my record as a teacher, coach, and principal. I have well over a decade of life-changing, impactful public service in the public eye.”
Frieri also worked for Holyoke Public Schools after his time in Adams.
Superintendent/Receiver of Holyoke Public Schools Anthony Soto said Frieri was employed by the district more than five years ago, but that “there’s very little else I can share with you at this time, since none of the current HPS leadership team members were part of the decision to hire Mr. Frieri, nor were we part of any discussions prior to his leaving employment with Holyoke Public Schools.”
Parents in Westfield are now questioning why he was hired in their district years after these allegations.
“You just kind of wonder when someone is fired from a previous teaching position why that maybe isn’t looked into more?” said Mona Rastegar of Westfield.
School hiring process
The I-Team found out what the process is and what is considered when hiring a new administrator in Westfield.
According to Westfield Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski, first, a search committee is created. They verify with the state that the candidate has a valid educator license. Candidate interviews, reference checks, and an online search on each candidate are also performed. Westfield Public Schools also run a criminal record check.
Czaporowski told the I-Team he could not comment specifically on current or former employees, but that “if a candidate was never charged, or if an issue in a previous district was never reported to DESE, then we would have no way of knowing about any possible misconduct unless the candidate themselves disclose that information.”
Again, Frieri was never charged with any crimes related to the incident in Adams years before he was hired in Westfield.
The I-Team has multiple calls and emails to Lenox Superintendent Marc Gosselin. He has yet to respond.