A little more than a month after the Montville school board approved a replacement coach for former Montville Township High School assistant track coach Anthony SanFilippo, his wife, Kristen SanFilippo, pleaded with the board not to replace her as well Tuesday night.
“I am here tonight to tell you why I should not be let go,” she told the board of education.
But the board voted to approve a new coach despite SanFilippo’s, and a few students’ requests. Board members were not able to comment on the personnel issue, according to the board attorney, however, Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried confirmed that the appointments of all of the new coaches were recommended through the appropriate process.
SanFilippo had been an assistant track coach for the winter and spring programs for the past three years. Her husband was also an assistant track coach at the high school for the past seven years.
SanFilippo said she was told in October that her coaching contract would not be renewed because an in-district employee was interested and qualified for the position. While she disputed the fact that her replacement was qualified, SanFilippo said she was not left with enough time to find a new position.
“I was left with no opportunity to find another coaching job and to make matters more unprofessional, I was fired via e-mail,” she said.
A few students spoke in favor of Kristen SanFilippo at the meeting, including one who said “she lifted me up as an athlete.”
“I could tell she has an amazing relationship with all of her athletes,” he said.
District parent Sylvie Debourmont spoke against the high school athletic director, Paul Pignatello, before all meeting attendees were cautioned by Board President Dr. Karen Cortellino that any defamatory remarks could be used by the person whom they are about in legal actions.
“This man is destroying the entire track program,” Debourmont said.
Debourmont said Kristen SanFilippo coached her daughter and helped her make it fairly far in the sport. She said the coach taught the kids life skills more than just athletic technique. Debourmont referenced the non-rehiring of Anthony SanFilippo and said she is confused by the board’s actions in not rehiring who she believes to be “good people.”
“I don’t understand why, always, when we have good people in place in this district, they are dismissed for no reason,” she said.
But Cheryl Manfra, another district parent, said there are always reasons someone is not rehired and that the decision likely did not solely rest in the hands of the high school athletic director but that decisions like these “are, in fact, blessed by people higher than the administrator of athletics.” Manfra defended Pignatello, who was not present, and said she feels the athletic programs have increased in quality during Pignatello’s tenure with the district.
“We are in a much better place, athletically, than we were three years ago,” she said.