MONTVILLE, NJ – Many dismayed residents and students appeared before the Montville Township Board of Education at their Feb. 6 meeting to state their anger regarding the “firing” of high school physical education teacher Kevin Brown as coach for the varsity soccer team for the fall 2018 season. From residents’ comments at the meeting, the problem seems to have stemmed from decisions Brown made in cutting seniors from the fall 2017 team, but TAPinto Montville cannot verify this rumor. The district will not comment on personnel matters.

However, Board President Charles Grau firmly denied the coach will not return to his position.  Grau read a statement before opening public portion of the meeting:

“I know many of you are here tonight to discuss the supposed board action regarding a particular coach,” Grau read. “Please let me be very clear: all of these rumors are false. The board of education has not taken any action whatsoever with regard to this individual. The board of education is also not allowed to discuss personnel matters in public. There will be no dialog. If anyone wants to come to the podium and make a statement, that’s great. The board of education has not appointed any coaches for next year. The fall coaches, according to the superintendent, will be appointed at the March 6 meeting. These coaches will be appointed based on the recommendation of the superintendent. Three of the board members were not even on the board prior to Jan. 1 and they were accused of things when they were not even here.”

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Resident Jeff Axelrod told the board there is a petition online with 815 signatures in support of Brown.

“I find it highly random that 100 people show up for a meeting yet a decision hasn’t been made,” Axelrod charged. “I know for a fact that Coach Brown was called in by Principal Sanford on Jan. 19 to discuss coaching soccer next year and was told by the athletic director and Principal Sanford that he would not be retained. That is the reason why people are here.”

He said a professional team pays Brown to be their talent evaluator and he knows how to judge.

Tereena Elias of Towaco said no one on the board is qualified to make decisions on who should be soccer coach.

“In the 11 years four of my boys have played varsity soccer, I was happy to have Coach Brown as my son’s senior coach, and I can tell you in 11 years there has never been a year that a freshman has not been brought up to play varsity, or a senior cut from the team,” Elias said.

William Mason Elementary School teacher and fellow soccer coach Scott Brennan read a statement in support of Brown, stating the “claims made against him are beyond false and an assault on his character.” Brennan said there have been positive changes to the program since Brown’s hiring.

“Cutting players is the worst part of being a coach; no coach looks forward to letting players go, but these decisions must be made and the best players were always chosen,” Brennan said. “We made a point to talk to each player one-on-one and explain to them why they had been cut and what they could improve on, in a respectful manner.”

After Brennan’s comments, Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar reiterated that no decision has been made regarding coaches, and Grau said any rumors are false.

“The fall coaches will come from the recommendation of the principal to the superintendent, or whoever’s involved, the athletic director,” Grau said. “It’ll be done on March 6. I don’t know who you heard what from, but it’s false. The board has not made a decision. We cannot recommend a coach, we cannot fire a coach. It comes through the administrative chain. When we get a recommendation from the superintendent, that’s what we vote on. It’s a process.”

Student Joe DelloStritto said he is a high school basketball player but he was upset over the situation and had to speak his mind.

“Essentially [Coach Brown] would be fired for doing his job,” DelloStritto said. “A coach’s job is to take the best possible group of players in order to better the program. This could be all seniors, this could be no seniors, because talent sees no age.”

Another mother said she disagreed, and did not like Brown as a coach. Steven Sesko, a senior at the high school, said Brown took only the best players regardless of class year.

Towaco resident Bruce Dostal, a volunteer coach at the high school, said it’s not good for coaches to have to worry about which players to accept because when they’re worried about their jobs, they’re not good coaches.

“They’re going to be coaching scared,” he said.

He said the decision to cut players is usually made by varsity, junior varsity and freshman coaches together.

Soccer parent Gerhard Meyer said he supported Brown because of the way he motivates the players.

TAPinto Montville contacted Kevin Brown but received no response as of the time of this publication.

Schools’ Performance

Rovtar commented on articles on NJ.com regarding the school performance reports from the Department of Education (see Montville Township High School’s here: MTHS), for example, “the 50 top high schools in New Jersey by SAT scores.” She said that among the top 10, all are vocational schools, and in the top 50, 16 are schools which screen and select their student bodies.

“It’s not a fair comparison for the truly public schools,” she said. “We compare favorably to what we consider to be our peer schools. There was also an article about the summative scores. Eighty-five percent of that summative score was based on PARCC results. When you have a measurement that’s so narrowly based on one aspect, I don’t think it’s entirely representative of what our schools provide and what our students have accomplished. Even the department said it did not provide a true representation of the achievement of the schools. Montville Township High School’s summative score was 73 and Chatham was a 74. I think we’re comparing very favorably.”

Link through the school district to see all seven schools’ data: Seven.

Other News

New member Michael Rappaport was sworn in.

Eagle Scout Michael Manetta was honored by the board of education with a resolution.

District Communication Officer Susan Marinello described the brand, motto and logos launch and thanked Skye Dillon, Principal and owner of SDS, for his role in the project. Each school has its own logo but in a similar style. The district’s new motto is EDUCATE. INSPIRE. EMPOWER.

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