A public hearing scheduled at Glen Cove City Court and then relocated at the last minute to Thayer House resulted in a tremendous amount of confusion for the more than 50 residents who attempted to attend. It was planned to be an open hearing called by Saverino (Savy) Gallo, a Glen Cove High School teacher and coach of more than 22 years who has been brought up on charges by the Board of Education for what Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellen Freeley called a "concern that a positive learning environment did not exist in his classroom." According to Jonathan Lovett, attorney for Mr. Gallo, the charges stem from "a student who wanted to get out of Mr. Gallo's class. She would cut class, read newspapers in class...she didn't want to be there. When the student asked for a change of class, she was told the school did not remove students from classes without good reason. They encouraged her to find a good reason," Mr. Lovett said. "The good reason the student found included being made to feel uncomfortable in Mr. Gallo's class by reason of her gender," he added, categorizing the situation a "witch hunt."
Mr. Gallo requested of the district an open hearing to address what he says are false and unfounded accusations. The district, in turn, arranged for the original venue, City Court and the date, Jan. 16.
Confusion and chaos ensued on Friday, as many supporters of Mr. Gallo were showing up at the City Courthouse not having heard of the last minute change. About a week before the hearing date, Judge Richard McCord had informed Dr. Freeley that he was rescinding the offer of use of the court for reasons of security when he realized it was not going to be a closed meeting. Many supporters did not get the news of the change in time; in fact, neither Mr. Gallo nor his attorney had been told of the change by the school district. On Wednesday, Mr. Gallo called Mr. Lovett to say he had received a call from a friend who had heard of a possible change. Mr. Lovett then called the school district and was given confirmation.
An assignment editor for News 12 told this reporter that the station received more than a dozen phone calls on Friday morning from people identifying themselves as high school students, parents or concerned friends of the Gallos, suggesting the station "come and see what's going on in Glen Cove." According to the editor , when the station called the school district, they were told there was no reason to come, as there was no story. "That got us there in an even bigger hurry," stated the News 12 editor. However, by the time the cameras arrived, the decision had been made to postpone the hearing.
The meeting room in Thayer House is small, and can accommodate about 15 people at a time. The hearing officer signed in the 35 people who came through the door, and offered to rotate the audience, 15 people per hour. Mr. Lovett found that unacceptable and asked for an adjournment.
This story first came to light and was reported on in the Dec. 19, 2003 issue of the Record Pilot where this reporter stated that the school board meeting of the previous Monday had an audience composed of "the largest and most diverse and vocal audience in a long time. Teachers, former teachers, students, former students and well-known local business persons and public servants mixed with many regular attendees and filled the all- purpose room at Gribbin School... [to stand] one by one and question the board and administration's treatment of the teacher, or, alternately to praise the teacher." Phone calls to the Record Pilot and letters to the editor in defense of Mr. Gallo continue even now.
Many teachers expressed a desire to attend Mr. Gallo's hearing. However, a memo given to this reporter by a teacher in the district clearly outlined that the only allowance for a personal day off for legal matters would have to be for matters pertaining to one's self or family members. Teachers were also told in the memo that if they were to call in sick that day, they should not be sitting in the audience at a hearing. The new date for Mr. Gallo's hearing is March 16, place and time to be announced. According to Dr. Freeley, it may be held in one of the school's auditoriums at about 5 p.m., after school hours.