Track Coach Dismissed, Students Plan to Speak Out
Anthony SanFilippo said he is not sure why, after seven years, he was not asked to continue coaching in Montville.
Montville Township High School sophomore Alex Rodgers said the upcoming track season will not be the same without former assistant coach Anthony SanFilippo.
"I can't imagine track without him," he said.
After seven years of coaching in the district, SanFilippo's contract was not renewed for the upcoming school year. SanFilippo said he is not exactly sure why, but a group of students and parents are planning to ask the Montville Township Public Schools Board of Education during Tuesday night's board meeting.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Fried said he is unable to comment on the reasoning behind the non-renewal of the contract, as it is a personnel issue.
SanFilippo, 33, said Monday he is upset by the district's decision and, as a Montville resident and Montville Township High School graduate, he had hoped to continue on with the district for as long as he could.
"My goal was going to be to never leave Montville," he said. "I started here, I wanted to finish here."
While Montville Township High School Principal Doug Sanford referred all personnel questions to Dr. Fried, SanFilippo said he had received a negative performance review last year from Athletic Director Paul Pignatello. He said he provided a rebuttal to the review, but had heard rumors as early as February that his contract would not be renewed. SanFilippo said he was "not surprised" to learn Friday that the district would not be offering him a new contract.
Still, SanFilippo said he is proud of what he has achieved for the district, including coaching an All-American athlete and often taking on additional tasks that he feels other coaches would not have done. Head track coach Mark Philhower also said SanFilippo has been a positive influence on the district's track program.
"He's been an absolutely phenomenal, positive thing for our program," he said.
Philhower said SanFilippo fundraised for the program, created a new organization for throwers and put a "tremendous amount of energy" into the sport at the high school.
"The 'team' feeling got stronger because of Anthony," Philhower said.
SanFilippo is a full-time salesman, but he said his profession allowed him the flexibility to coach part-time with the district. Coaching is a true passion of his and he said not knowing whether he would be asked to coach again in Montville until last week has put him at a disadvantage for finding another coaching job. SanFilippo also noted that his $7,000-per season stipend is not what is most important to him.
"I don't care about the money, I'll coach for free," he said.
Philhower also said SanFilippo often spent his own money on opportunities for the kids without asking to be reimbursed.
"Anthony was the kind of guy where if he could help out, he would," he said.
Leslie Rodgers, Alex Rodgers' mother, said she is disappointed that SanFilippo will not be coaching her son, or other track participants, this year. She said SanFilippo's specialty coaching abilities in throwing and willingness to go "above and beyond" set him above other coaches and she feels the district will have a difficult time finding a coach like SanFilippo.
"Another coach is not going to, during the summer, take kids to these different events that lead up to the nationals of the Junior Olympics on their own money," she said.
Alex Rodgers said SanFilippo helped him win shot put competitions with his knowledge and experience and that even his personality was appreciated by the students.
"I think he's just an awesome guy," he said.
Leslie Rodgers said her son and some of the students who plan to speak at Tuesday's meeting have hope that they can convince the board to reverse their decision and to continue with SanFilippo. As a parent though, Rodgers said she has "less hope."
The Montville Township Public Schools Board of Education will be meeting with the public Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the municipal building on Changebridge Road.