North Beach School Board candidate was fired, settled with district

Joe Lomedico says history with district, criminal record won’t hinder ability to serve

A candidate for school board director and former employee of the North Beach School District reached a settlement with the district last year after he was terminated following — but not as a result of — an incident where he physically escorted a special education student to the principal’s office.

Last December, Joe Lomedico, who is now vying to represent District 4 on the school board, reached a $35,000 employment settlement as the result of his legal grievance alleging his termination violated a collective bargaining agreement held by the Public School Employees of Washington/SEIU 1948 teacher’s union.

That cleared his termination documents and made him eligible to reapply for positions with the district. Now, as he hopes to be elected to the school board, Lomedico says that incident, or his past criminal history, will have no bearing on his ability to serve the school district.

The incident occurred in January of 2022 when Lomedico was employed as a gym teacher and program facilitator at Ocean Shores Elementary. A fourth-grade special education student at OSE, who has autism, became upset after an interaction with another student during recess on the elementary school playground. Several staff on hand witnessed the event and contributed to the district’s incident report. According to the report, Cheryl Church, a special education paraprofessional, approached and attempted to calm the student down. Church states in her report that the student hit Church, and then avoided the teacher by running inside the school.

Church’s report states that Lomedico walked down the hall to “physically escort (the student) to the office.” A playground supervisor who witnessed the incident said in the report they “saw Coach Joe (Lomedico) come down the hall and take him by the arm aggressively to take him to the office, (the student) resisted, and Joe grabbed him and appeared to forcefully walk him down the hall.”

Security camera footage from the hallway shows Lomedico walking briskly down a hallway toward the student and taking hold of the student’s arm. When the student continued to flail and resist, Lomedico moved his hand to the back of the student’s neck.

In an interview, Lomedico said he was concerned at the time the metal zipper from the student’s sweatshirt, which the student was swinging around, would harm other students in the area and in the nearby cafeteria.

Later that day, the student’s mother, Maria Schafer, filed a report with the Ocean Shores Police Department. In the report, photos taken 30 minutes after the incident show red marks on the back of the child’s neck. In OSPD’s supplemental incident report narrative written one week later, the responding officer wrote that the marks were “no longer visible.”

The Ocean Shores city prosecutor later decided not to prosecute, and Lomedico was not charged with a crime in relation to the incident. Based on video footage, it was determined that “Lomedico’s actions do not constitute an assault. The level of force applied by Lomedico did not appear unreasonable under the circumstances,” the report reads.

State law that addresses the use of force on children states “the physical discipline of a child is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child.”

Unreasonable use of force is defined as an act “likely to cause and which does cause bodily harm greater than transient pain or minor temporary marks,” according to the same chapter of the Revised Code of Washington.

Following the incident, Schafer attempted to file two complaints with different departments of the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction regarding the incident. OSPI found the agency was unable to investigate either complaint, both because Lomedico was not a certified employee with the district and because the circumstances in the complaint “did not show a possible violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” Schafer also asked then-Superintendent Andrew Kelly to file an OSPI complaint, but Kelly did not.

At the board meeting directly following the incident, the school board approved two policies relating to “reasonable use of force” on students and special education, respectively.

Since the incident, Schafer said, her child experienced an increased pattern of behavioral outbursts as well as emotional trauma, including a lack of trust for school officials. She said she pulled her two students from North Beach schools as a result of the incident.

Termination and settlement

Kelly hired Lomedico in 2019, as a coach of the middle school football team, and a few years later, Lomedico took the job as a gym teacher and program facilitator at Pacific Beach Elementary, and then at Ocean Shores Elementary. The father of four North Beach students and owner of a fitness center and a jiu jitsu school in Ocean Shores, Lomedico said reviving North Beach athletics would be one of his priorities as a school board member.

Lomedico was also an assistant high school football coach for North Beach last school year. Immediately following the incident, he was placed on administrative leave. He was fired from that position in the days following the incident by head Coach Todd Gladsjo. In an email to Kelly, Gladsjo stated his decision was unrelated to the recent incident, but that Lomedico “did not follow or embrace the goals set forth to help the football program(s) grow and develop.”

According to Lomedico, he was fired a few days later by Kelly, who claimed Lomedico had violated the administrative leave. Kelly brought that action to the school board at the next meeting on Feb. 15, and the board unanimously approved Lomedico’s termination. (Within the next two months, the board placed Kelly on paid leave before the superintendent resigned in April and later that summer faced violating probation requirements of five-year-old Driving Under the Influence charges.)

Shortly after he was fired, Lomedico filed a grievance arguing his termination violated terms of his collective bargaining agreement, which the district denied. In December, union and district attorneys reached a settlement agreement, which the North Beach school board voted to approve by a 3-1 vote. The agreement granted him the wages he missed out on from April 1, 2022 to March 2023. The settlement also removed termination documents from Lomedico’s file with the district, made him eligible to apply for jobs within the district and granted him a letter of recommendation for future employment from board member Steve Rockey.

The only board member to vote against the settlement agreement was Jessica Iliff, who is now defending her District 4 position against Lomedico.

On Thursday, the North Beach School District issued the following statement regarding Lomedico’s termination and settlement: “The incident involving contact between Mr. Lomedico and an Ocean Shores Elementary student was investigated by the North Beach School District at the time it occurred, and this investigation did not result in the termination of Mr. Lomedico’s employment. The District and Mr. Lomedico reached a settlement agreement regarding an unresolved employment matter in December 2022. The District is unable to comment further at this time.”

“The police said I didn’t do anything wrong, the school board said I didn’t do anything wrong. All the teachers there that know me know I didn’t do anything wrong,” Lomedico said.

Criminal history

During two separate traffic stops in 2022, Ocean Shores police cited Lomedico both for driving with a suspended license and without a required ignition interlock device, according to Ocean Shores Municipal Court documents. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer that ensures drivers haven’t consumed alcohol before starting the car.

Lomedico attended court arraignments for those charges, but when scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing on July 12, he failed to appear, and was issued bench warrants for his arrest in both cases.

Lomedico told The Daily World he didn’t appear in court because he is working with the city prosecutor to resolve the licensing issue. According to the OSPD report narratives, he told police during a traffic stop in March 2022 he believed the license issue had been corrected during the pandemic, but police dispatch confirmed his license was suspended in the third degree. Then, at a traffic stop in July 2022, Lomedico told police he was in the process of renewing his license, and police advised him not to drive until the issue was resolved.

Those are Lomedico’s only charges in Ocean Shores Municipal Court, but they stem from previous convictions of Driving Under the Influence. According to Ocean Shores Municipal Court documents, he was found guilty on DUI charges twice, including a 2014 offense in Seattle Municipal Court and a 2003 offense in Snohomish County District Court, Everett Division.

Lomedico said he received the 2014 charge while waiting for a ride in a parked car rather than driving. Another DUI came in 2003 when he was a young adult.

“My reputation in the community is unquestionable,” he wrote in an email in response to questions about his criminal record. “As a coach I have never hidden my issues in my youth from my athletes. It’s a tool I use to show them the importance of responsibility and decision making.”

Other legal matters

On June 12 of this year, with his employment settlement in the rearview, Lomedico again served the district with an intent to sue on several grounds, including the district’s handling of public records and his firing as assistant football coach. He said the threat of lawsuit was “not as much a monetary thing as much as it is a change that needs to happen,” and that he is working with the current administration to resolve the issue without going to court.

According to figures presented at a board meeting in June, the district spent about $150,000 on legal fees last school year, about eight times what it had budgeted for. It was part of the reason the board approved a $530,000 budget extension at the June meeting.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or