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Friends and parents rally in support of suspended Sanibel teacher

By Staff | Jan 23, 2015

Dozens of parents and friends in support of a Sanibel teacher suspended for workplace misconduct are outraged, vowing a loud public campaign to help shred the allegations with what they say is countering evidence and explanations to offset the report under review with the Lee County School District.

Banners, email blasts, public rallies, even videos are planned in support of Joseph Angelo, the Sanibel School music teacher placed on unpaid suspension Jan. 13. The advocates also plan to rally the Jan. 27 Lee County school board hearing, hoping to evoke a strong message, perhaps a reinvestigation into the matter, said supporters, who this week staged a strategy session on Captiva. Angelo was present at that meeting, parents in attendance said.

Sanibel School and district officials couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

“It is reprehensible what has happened to Joe Angelo,” said Rene Miville, parent of a Sanibel School student. “Look at the (investigation) report. There are no findings, no proof. It’s as if he’s guilty until proven innocent. It’s just not right.”

Angelo has been the Sanibel School’s music instructor for a decade and has staged student plays regarded by many as top tier. A pre-Christmas musical was sold out. It was also at the time the investigation into allegations of misconduct were underway, parents later learned. Angelo at holiday break was dispatched by Sanibel School administrators to Lee County district offices, where he reported until his Jan. 13 unpaid suspension, a parent in daily contact with Angelo said.

Angelo, whose wife also works at the school, is alleged to have violated codes of conduct concerning his work computer, including trolling for market updates, shopping, possible inappropriate website/email visits, all of which he and his supporters insist can be clarified.

Angelo’s staging of student performances has endeared him to parents, many now speaking out in his defense. Arlene Dillion, who has worked as an unpaid assistant to Angelo in staging school plays, saw no indication of inappropriate behavior, certainly no misuse of school equipment, she said. She was busy Friday rallying support, getting parents and school volunteers before television cameras to tell their stories. The rally at the city’s Recreation Center neighbors the school.

“We are united in our support of Joe Angelo and want him to go back to work at the Sanibel School,” Dillion wrote in an open letter to supporters and the media. “We ask that Dr. Nancy Graham, the Lee County School District Superintendent, carefully review this flawed investigation and report before she makes her decision.”

Others working closely with Angelo said social media and internet usage investigators say violated school codes of conduct could have been misinterpreted, according to some parents supporting Angelo.

Sanibel School parent Dawn Ramsey, for instance, said she and Angelo routinely trolled the internet at the school, searching for costuming and other services for student performances. Keying in the words “cheerleader skirts” for a production of “Grease,” for instance, would likely generate a gamut of results listings, including information that could be misconstrued, Ramsey said. She estimated spending hundreds of hours with Angelo on the internet searching for costuming and props, never doubting his conduct.

“Unfortunately, that can happen,” Ramsey said of possibly inappropriate web pop ups. “But this isn’t Joe Angelo. It isn’t fair.”