LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — After allegations of inappropriate conduct against the Lansing School District acting superintendent resurfaced, tempers flared at a meeting designed to get public input on the search process for a permanent leader.
Yvonne Caamal Canul retired as superintendent earlier this year. Her deputy, Mark Coscarella, took over as acting superintendent. He is also the front-runner to replace Caamal Canul permanently, as the district conducts an internal search.
But since he was appointed, allegations of inappropriate conduct, including sexual harassment, have resurfaced, leading members of the public to question if Coscarella is fit to lead the district.
–Above: Watch the report on the allegations against Mark Coscarella by 6 News Reporter Kiara Hay
The sexual harassment allegations, made by a former student teacher of Coscarella’s, date back to 2000, when Coscarella was a teacher and baseball coach in the Holt Public School district. According to police reports, the alleged harassment started when Coscarella would comment on her clothes and had a “sexual sense of humor.” The victim initially thought it was harmless, but, eventually, things progressed.
After a vacation, the reports say Coscarella allegedly bragged about his tan lines and following topless women at a beach in Florida.
Then, in April 2000, Coscarella allegedly asked the student teacher to stay after school. The victim told police he then stripped down to his underwear and, while he did not expose himself or touch her inappropriately, he danced around her in just his underwear.
Coscarella denies the woman’s allegations. He released the following statement to 6 News:
“I am angered by the false allegations….they are absolutely not true. Details of her story were proven to be false almost 20 years ago. My wife and I have retained an attorney to pursue all available legal options.”Mark Coscarella, Acting Superintendent, Lansing School District
However, in 2002, Coscarella resigned from Holt Public Schools amid other allegations he either gave pornographic material to his baseball team, or turned a blind eye to it.
Lansing Public School District Board of Education President Rachel Willis released the following statement on Coscarella:
“The Board of Education for the Lansing School District is moving forward with our search for a new Superintendent, and our unanimous focus is on conducting an internal search within candidates working in the district. We have a great team and Lansing has a terrific record of educational progress and positive momentum!
The board is moving forward with our search process for a new superintendent with the help of our partners at the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB). We take this matter and all public comments seriously, and will be conducting a thorough review of all claims with the help of a third party investigator.
Dr. Mark Coscarella has made a complete disclosure to the Board of Education about these events from many years ago. The district was aware of these unsubstantiated allegations when Dr. Coscarella was hired by the Lansing School District in a leadership position in 2014. The public can be assured that the elected school board members will review all comments and make the right decision.Rachel R. Willis (Lewis), President, Lansing School District Board of Education
At Wednesday’s meeting, members of the public questioned why Coscarella was appointed acting superintendent.
“I’m disappointed in the Lansing school board,” Debbie Nolan said. “I’m disappointed that they had all this information about the acting superintendent, yet went ahead and appointed him.”
“To be blunt, it’s absurd,” Curtis Vaden said. “You know, if you know this coming in, it’s either a level of incompetence, or not caring.”
The Lansing School District Board of Education will hold a regular meeting Thursday, November 7 at 6:30 p.m.
The Michigan Association of School Boards will hold another public information session on Tuesday, November 12. There is also a survey where the public can weigh in on the search.
Nolan and others called for the search for a permanent superintendent to be national.
“Our students deserve the best. our teachers deserve the best,” she said. “We’re better than this.”
–6 News Reporter Kiara Hay contributed to this report.