Board member Barbara Schatzman (l) and president Victor Correa confer...

Board member Barbara Schatzman (l) and president Victor Correa confer before going into executive session. (March 18, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The South Country School Board has not decided the fates of several employees that an independent investigation connected to an alleged grade-fixing scandal at Bellport High School, but will do so in the next several weeks, the district's attorney said Thursday.

The board voted 5-3 Wednesday to accept the resignation of Superintendent Joseph Cipp Jr.

An attorney hired by the district to investigate the grade-tampering allegations involving a former football player found that Cipp must have been involved or must have known what was going on, according to a preliminary report.

Cipp, 63, who has denied any wrongdoing, said Thursday it was in the best interest of the school and the community for him to step down. As part of the deal, which includes a cash payout of $545,000, he agreed not to sue the district.

Referring to "the amount of pain and grief and suffering" he and his family have experienced, his decision to resign was a clear choice, Cipp said in a telephone interview.

Before becoming superintendent in 2010, Cipp had been the high school's football coach for more than 30 years, compiling a record as the winningest football coach in Suffolk County history.

One of Cipp's sons, Joseph Cipp III, 42, said Wednesday night that the accusations and their aftermath have taken a toll on his father's health.

The elder Cipp Thursday would not elaborate, saying, "You can take it from my son. He wouldn't lie about my health."

He had no further comment.

Richard Hamburger, Cipp's attorney, said Cipp resigned because he couldn't be effective without board support. Hamburger said Cipp did nothing wrong but couldn't remain the focal point where "all the energy was directed in finger-pointing and blame."

Cipp agreed to end his contract 14 months early and will forgo a significantly larger pension as a result. A new superintendent will take over Monday.

"He didn't change grades," Hamburger said. "He didn't direct anyone to change grades."

Cipp was accused by fired Bellport High Principal Kevin O'Connell of pressuring employees to boost Ryan Sloan's grades so he could qualify for an NCAA scholarship.

Sloan received an athletic scholarship to Syracuse University, where he is a freshman and plays football. He has said he improved his grades at Bellport High through hard work.

Sloan did not respond to a message Thursday.

O'Connell has sued the district in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, alleging wrongful termination and seeking damages.

O'Connell's attorney, Jack Grossman, said Cipp's resignation bolsters his client's case.

"It adds credibility because they had an independent person examine all of the allegations my client made and then confirm them, putting pressure on for him to resign," Grossman said, referring to the investigation by Melville attorney Bronwyn Black.

Sloan lived with Edward and Melissa Carson, a friend's parents, during his senior year. They served as his legal guardians and have been informing him about the case.

"At this point in time right now, nothing has changed," Edward Carson said Thursday, adding that Sloan is still on the team.

Syracuse spokeswoman Sue Edson said records are private and she could not comment.

The NCAA, in a statement, said "we will not speculate on potential NCAA action."

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