A former William Mason School first-grade teacher who is facing second-degree charges of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child for allegedly abusing a girl who was in his class in 2005 was disciplined by the Montville school district years later for separate concerns about his conduct with students that did not include allegations of sexual contact, according to a statement read by the school board president at Tuesday's board meeting.
The former educator, Jason Fennes, 37, of Boonton, was being held at the Morris County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Board of Education President Dr. Karen Cortellino said there were no suggestions of improper conduct called to the school district's attention at the time the reported incidents allegedly occurred in 2005.
Separate concerns about his conduct with students were raised by a school administrator in 2009, leading to a letter of reprimand and the withholding of a raise, and again were raised in an anonymous letter in 2010 that quickly led to his suspension, but those concerns did not include allegations of sexual contact, Cortellino said.
Fennes resigned in June of 2010 and started working as a first-grade teacher at Cedar Hill Prep School in the Somerset section of Franklin Township the following school year, a Cedar Hill Prep official said.
The court did not have an attorney listed for Fennes on Tuesday.
Cortellino said the board wanted to provide background information to the extent it is allowed.
Fennes started working in Montville in September 1998.
In addition to teaching first grade, he eventually became the head boys track coach and in 2008 was the Northern Hills Conference Boys Track Coach of the Year. He also served as an assistant girls track coach.
He received tenure in 2001.
"Nothing at all concerning any suggestion of improper conduct was called to the school district's attention" at the time of the alleged incidents in 2005, Cortellino said.
However, in 2009, the Board of Education acted to withhold Fennes' raise.
"The basis for that public action was a Letter of Reprimand by then Principal Dr. Stephanie Adams that criticized Mr. Fennes for the way he conducted himself with students," Cortellino said. "There was, however, no accusation of sexual contact. The increment withholding was the discipline recommended by then Superintendent Gary Bowen."
In March of 2010, the Board of Education received an anonymous letter expressing concerns about Fennes that went beyond Adams' 2009 comments, but still did not allege sexual contacts, according to the board statement.
Based on that letter, Interim Superintendent Rita Seipp suspended Fennes on March 12, 2010, Cortellino said.
The Board of Education conducted an extensive investigation and, during that time, many parents came forward, with some supporting Fennes and some parents criticizing him, the statement said.
On April 13, 2010, while Fennes remained suspended, the board rescinded his appointment as head boys track coach for the 2010 spring season.
On May 14, 2010, Fennes, represented by legal counsel at that point, resigned from the district. He signed an agreement, gave up his tenure rights and resigned effective June 30, 2010. He never worked again in the district following his March 12 suspension, Cortellino said.