By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s been stated here too many times to remember that Queen of Peace is perhaps the most dysfunctional school and athletic department that I’ve dealt with in my 33-year career in covering high school sports.
In fact, there’s not even a close second. It’s the true champion of dysfunction and discombobulating events.
You name it, it’s happened at Queen of Peace. You have coaches coming and going for a host of reasons, ranging from hiring an exercise expert without permission to domestic violence threats. You have athletic administrators being replaced and then brought back again, then replaced and brought back once again. Kids come and go, either transferring in or leaving.
And seriously, you can’t make up some of the stories that emulate from Ridge Road in North Arlington. It would make for its own ridiculous reality show.
One figures that nothing that happens at Queen of Peace could shock me anymore. I figured I’ve seen and heard it all after all these years.
That was, until last week, when I happened to open the Bergen Record. On the front page of the sports section, across the right side column, appeared a story whose headline read, “QP hires Dressel as girls’ basketball coach.”
Say what? Could it be THE Kerry Dressel, the former St. Mary’s of Rutherford coach? That same Kerry Dressel? Sure enough, the article stated that Dressel had been indeed hired by QP athletic director Ed Abromaitis to become the new girls’ coach at the school.
And as I read further, I exclaimed out loud, even if I was by myself, “Are they kidding me?”
This one took the cake. Of all the stories that ever came out of QP – like one coach getting arrested for going after another coach in a domestic dispute, or another former coach appearing in pornographic films or yet another coach going into the showers with his players – this one was clearly the most ridiculous.
You see, Kerry Dressel once stood accused of having committed a felony.
Regardless of what her status is now, in 2009, when she was the head coach at St. Mary’s of Rutherford, Dressel took a plea bargain and accepted Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) for pleading guilty to falsifying financial aid documents for three students in order to get those players to be able to pay tuition to go to St. Mary’s.
Dressel and her assistant coach Rachael Kressaty were arrested and charged with theft by deception, use of personal identifying information and theft by failure to make required disposition of property received.
Dressel, who was an All- State player during her days at St. Mary’s and still remains the No. 2 scorer all-time in Bergen County history, scoring 2,566 points when she graduated in 1982, agreed to forfeit her teaching certificate in 2010 as part of her entrance into the PTI program.
PTI is offered to first-time offenders who do not commit violent crimes. If someone completes the PTI program, then after a year, the charges are expunged and removed from one’s permanent records.
So therefore, Dressel currently does not have a criminal record. But there’s no denying what she did to get in trouble in the first place.
Dressel was a highly successful coach at St. Mary’s, winning more than 250 games during her 14-year tenure. No one can ever doubt Dressel’s abilities as a coach.
But she simply cannot be involved in high school athletics. Dressel relinquished that privilege once she accepted the terms of the PTI.
Apparently three weeks ago, on the request of current QP wrestling coach Scot Weaver, Dressel met with Abromaitis to discuss the possibility of being the new girls’ coach at the school.
Dressel was apparently upfront with Abromaitis and told him that she did have some trouble in the past.
But Abromaitis did not know the severity of Dressel’s situation when he spoke with her about the job.
Here’s the other sticking point – whether Dressel was hired at QP in the first place.
One day after the story appeared – much to everyone’s surprise – in the Bergen Record, the Archdiocese of Newark issued a statement which said that Abromaitis “misspoke” when he allegedly told the Bergen Record that Dressel was indeed hired.
Both the Archdiocese of Newark and school officials are insisting that no one has been hired as the girls’ basketball coach at Queen of Peace.
Dressel sure sounded like she was the new coach in the Bergen Record article.
“I had a great conversation with Abromaitis, and we had a lot of the same ideas and we both want good things for the Queen of Peace basketball team to get them back to where they used to be,” Dressel was quoted as saying in the Bergen Record article. “My job is not going to be easy, because there are not a lot of kids in the program, so it’s pretty much starting from scratch and going forward. There is nowhere to go but up.”
In the Bergen Record article, Abromaitis admitted that Dressel addressed her legal woes, but that he thought everyone “deserved a second chance.”
“The feeling I got was she was humbled by what happened to her and was very honest about it,” Abromaitis said in the article. “I am sure she wants to put it behind her and move forward. We are looking to build a program because it’s been down the last couple of years. We needed a coach who would come in and stimulate the girls and get them to come out. Hopefully, we can become a winning program again.”
Maybe the Golden Griffins can soar again in girls’ basketball, but they cannot with Dressel as the head coach. Plain and simple, Dressel’s days as a basketball coach are over. How in the world could any school turn a blind eye to what she did, even if it was six years ago, even if she did complete the terms of her PTI and there is no permanent record of the crimes?
The bottom line is that she did it. She perpetuated fraud on legal financial aid forms for the benefit of her basketball program and even herself, admitting that she took some of the financial aid money received for “personal expenses.”
It’s absurd to think that the school would even consider someone with that kind of track record, especially with all of the countless other indiscretions and horror stories the school has had to endure over the years.
So shame on Weaver for recommending her in the first place.
And shame on Abromaitis for being naïve to the severity of the charges that were initially levied against Dressel. All Abromaitis had to do was Google Dressel’s name.
One of the first items that appears when you do is “Kerry Dressel convicted.” I kid you not. It’s the third option down after you Google her name. That alone should have been the red flag warning for Abromaitis.
I respect Ed Abromaitis as much if not more than anyone else I’ve covered in my 14 years at The Observer. He’s honest, upfront, doesn’t lie at all and more importantly has been loyal to Queen of Peace more than anyone else I’ve ever known. His loyalty to the school, even after he’s been abused and dumped on time and time again, has no peers.
But honestly, Abromaitis screwed up big time with this one by not doing his homework. All he had to do was go to Google. It would have taken three seconds. Instead, he has this mess to clean up and once again, he has to fall on the sword for his beloved QP.
So the Archdiocese did the right thing in putting a halt to the madness, stating that Dressel was not hired – even after Dressel spoke and acted like someone who had indeed been hired.
And yet once again, here’s QP getting the spotlight in these pages for all the wrong reasons. And people think that I have it out for the school. No, honestly, the school does it to itself time and time again.
If this one would have stuck, it would have been the worst of all.