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Teacher gets new chance to coach
By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2000
TRINITY -- Bill Napolitano was hired this week as the boys cross country and track and field coach at Mitchell High School, the same positions he held at River Ridge High when he was charged with solicitation two years ago.
Napolitano said he is relieved to coach again.
"This is my life," he said. "We're not in it for the money or anything; we're in it for the glory of the kids."
Jim Davis, the district's director of employee relations, said the Pasco County School District has decided Napolitano is not a threat to students.
"We always have concerns about anything that was possibly inappropriate on the part of a teacher," Davis said. "But with Mr. Napolitano there never has been an expressed concern relating to him and the school community."
Napolitano was hired by Mitchell principal Tina Tiede and assistant principal Jim Michaels. They did not return repeated calls, and could not be reached for comment on Friday.
It is a remarkable second chance for the 41-year-old former driver's education teacher, whom Pasco County School Superintendent John Long wanted to fire after his August 1998 arrest.
Napolitano lost his coaching positions but held onto his teaching job, agreeing to a host of punitive and rehabilitative measures with the school district and the state. His probation runs until the fall of 2002, when he could regain his tenure.
"Do I feel like I deserve a second chance? I don't know," Napolitano said. "I did wrong, and I've accepted that responsibility. The district feels that I deserve a second chance.
"I hope that the things I've done (for 15 years as a coach) is what prompted them to let me continue on. If I'd been a bad egg for 15 years, then I would have been gone."
Davis said Napolitano has met all the conditions imposed on him by the school district. That, and his long years of service before his arrest, convinced the district that Napolitano deserved a second chance.
"If you look at Mr. Napolitano's previous performance, he has been a very good person for the district," Davis said. "The incident that did occur had nothing to do with, of course, his ability to work with students or his role as a teacher.
"What he did was certainly something we would not expect him to do nor would we want someone to do. However, in his role as a teacher he has always been very effective and we hope that continues."
Like any other coach, Napolitano's hiring must be approved by the Pasco County School Board. When asked whether the board will approve Napolitano's hiring, Davis said, "There are no concerns."
Napolitano was arrested on Aug. 20, 1998, for offering an undercover police officer $15 for sex. He pleaded no contest to the charge on Jan. 20, 1999, adjudication was withheld and he paid $215 in court costs.
Staff writer Graham Brink contributed to this report.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.