More than 900 people have signed an online petition in support of highly successful Bullis lacrosse coach Jeff Bellistri, claiming the school’s administration and board are “actively trying to forcibly strip” Bellistri of his duties as coach after an email sent by a school official Monday said he would be replaced.
When reached on vacation Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Gerald L. Boarman, Bullis’s head of school, denied the claim suggested by the petition, saying Bellistri was still “both a teacher and a coach at Bullis.” He insisted that Bellistri had not been fired, that there was no future plan to do so and there is no other coach in his place.
Boarman said he did have a recent conversation with Bellistri about the direction and long-term sustainability of the nationally ranked team but that removing Bellistri from his role was not the topic of discussion. As of Thursday afternoon, Bellistri had not responded to messages left for comment, and neither had Bullis boys Athletic Director Andres Parra, who sent the email Monday that led to the wave of support shown for Bellistri.
Parra’s email, which was sent to Bullis lacrosse families, stated that Bellistri would no longer be the head lacrosse coach. It directly contradicted Boarman’s Wednesday remarks, although The Washington Post did not ask Boarman about the email specifically, because The Post didn’t receive the email until Thursday. Boarman had not responded to additional requests for comment as of Thursday afternoon.
“Over the last several weeks, an administrative committee has been reviewing the future of our lacrosse program,” the email stated. “This decision was not taken lightly, and we believe this is in the best interest of the Bullis lacrosse program.
“We want to thank Coach Bellistri for serving nearly two decades as both an assistant and head coach in the middle and upper school. We look forward to having Coach Bellistri remain part of the Bullis community as a member of our math department faculty. As we move forward, we are working to appoint an interim head coach in the near future.”
One of Bellistri’s sons, Kylor, took to Instagram on Tuesday to post a message calling for support of his father, who he wrote was “unjustifiably fired.” Kylor was an all-American lacrosse player at Bullis, went to Brown University and now plays for the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse. When reached, he declined to comment.
The Bullis School is an independent private school for grades K-12 in Potomac, Md. The school lists its tuition and fees in 2018-19 between $34,703 and $43,131, depending on the grade level.
Bellistri led Bullis to two Interstate Athletic Conference titles in the past three years, and the team finished its 2018 campaign ranked 10th in the country, according to the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse power rankings. He was named the head coach at Bullis in 2014, taking over for Bobby Pollicino. Bellistri started working at Bullis in 2001 and served as the middle school boys lacrosse coach before taking over the head varsity job.
While the petition didn’t have any authors listed, it was signed “Bullis Alumni.” More than 200 comments had been left in addition to the signatures, mostly from students, parents and alumni. Some merely thanked Bellistri for his time at Bullis, while others referred to Bellistri as having already being fired and expressed disapproval of that decision. Others displayed frustration toward the Bullis administration and board.
In responding to the petition and the social media comments, Boarman said only he can fire a faculty member, and since he has been on vacation this week, that decision was not made, adding that he had no intention of replacing Bellistri.