SUMMIT, NJ--The Summit Board of Education still has made no appointment to fill the Summit High School boys varsity basketball team position left vacant by the school district’s decision not to offer coach David White a contract for another year.
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker said at Thursday’s special session, at which the naming of a replacement coach was expected, that he had decided to withdraw his recommendation. Therefore, the school body did not take action on a resolution appointing Kurt Villani as the new coach, which was listed on the special meeting agenda.
In a statement at the meeting, Parker said he would continue to work with the board and the district “to do what is best for school and the students.”
Board President Gloria Ron-Fornes said the ultimate hiring decision must be made by the school district’s administration and she was confident that task would be completed.
She added, however, the deliberations must remain confidential and must be aimed at finding solutions but promises to individuals and interest groups must not be involved. She also said she felt “this process has been compromised.”
Ron-Forness noted the board is asking Parker to present a “post-mortem” on the selection process thus far to the school body in executive session by June 7 so the board can evaluate what has been done thus far and decide how the process can be improved. She set no specific timetable for action on an appointment.
Resident Marco DiMayorca of 27 Blackburn Place said, however, that the board had to step in at some point and make it clear that the selection process had gone on too long. He, like a number of parents who have attended the half-dozen board meetings held on the process, expressed support for White and said the coach had not been treated fairly by the district.
In response to a question by DiMayorca, district Human resources Director Kenneth Shulack said coaches are hired on an “at-will” basis, meaning that the district can decide not to rehire them at any point without giving any reasons for that decision.
Shulack added that, based on state law, Summit would prefer to have coaches with full-time teaching certificates who already teach at the school at which they anticipate coaching in a subject area related to their anticipated coaching position.
If candidates with those credentials cannot be found, he said, the district prefers those with general education certification or retired teachers.
The actual hiring decision is made, he said, only on the recommendation of the superintendent of schools.
Ron-Fornes, in her opening remarks, said the normal system was deviated from in the case of the basketball coach position with the decision by Parker to form a committee of parents, coaches and school officials to advise him on a replacement. She indicated the system was deviated from because of the tremendous amount of input received from the public about the decision on White.
She later added that the board cannot legally take action on a replacement appointment until the superintendent presents it with a recommendation.
Shulack also said that, although advisory committees of community “stakeholders” have been involved in filling positions such as those of vice-principal, principal and superintendent of schools, the district stilll has reserved the right to solicit input from past employers and other parties after advisory committees have made their recommendations and without informing the advisory committees.
White, thanking the parents and students who have supported him, said he felt he should have been given the opportunity to address concerns with his performance by athletic director Mike Sandor before Sandor made the recommendation not to renew his contract.
He added that he did not want to appeal a decision on a replacement, and he wanted the chance to give the young men whom he coached the opportunity for a summer program.
The former coach said he felt he did a good job and also said he had not been given the opportunity to address his concerns with the board.
Ron-Fornes replied that White did, in fact, speak to the school body in executive session.
Resident Kevin McCormack, who said he coaches sixth-grade girls and boys in summer basketball programs, noted White, whom he had never met before, offered to help out with those programs.
McCormack added that “one person has been disingenuous” during the process, seeming to direct his remarks at Parker.
Ron-Fornes, who had reminded the public that board procedures do not allow audience members to attack members of the board or administration, asked McCormack to leave the meeting or be escorted out of the meeting room.
Speaking about the process, resident Kristen Pierotti quoted a policy that states, “the board, without the recommendation of the superintendent, may offer a position to a staff member.”
Resident Vanessa Chivers added that, since White did not believe he had received a fair hearing, he should be given another chance to address the board.
Ron-Fornes and Assistant Superintendent for Business Louis Pepe, in response to other audience questions along the same lines, said if a candidate appeals the hiring decision of the superintendent the board has the right to accept or reject the appeal. If the decision is made to allow a repeal, the candidate may present their side of the story at the appeal hearing.
Pepe also said the board has the ability to overturn a hiring decision of the superintendent.
Board member Katherine Kalin noted, “it has been said there are three sides to every argument--my side, your side and the right side.”
Kalin said it was often frustrating that board members, constrained by legal requirements, could not share their points of view on some issues presented to them.
Resident Virginia McKee replied that, even though all sides of the White story have been made public at board meetings, many residents know the other sides of the story.
The board president replied, “I have nothing to win in this situation. My only aim is to bring excellence to this district, in coaching or any other endeavor, and to have Dr. Parker get us to that point.”
Asked about his timeline for making a determination on the replacement, Parker said he had no timeline, but would prefer that it be sooner rather than later.