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Coach Loss Detrimental to Track Program, Student Says

Students, parents and coaches urge board of education to reinstate Anthony SanFilippo as assistant track coach.

Dozens of students, athletes and parents crowded the back of Tuesday's meeting to show support for an assistant track coach for the upcoming school year.

Anthony SanFilippo has been coaching indoor track at for the past seven years, including outdoor track for the past four years. He learned Friday he would not be offered a contract to coach this year. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Fried said he is unable to comment on why SanFilippo is not being brought back next year because it is a personnel issue. Still, several supporters of SanFilippo attended the board meeting to urge the board to reconsider the decision.

Students, current and former, who spoke at Tuesday's meeting shared memories and stories of success with the audience and board of education members. Taylor Bernstein, a Pine Brook resident and All-American athlete who won competitions in shot put last year, said SanFilippo once drove to a track meet that was eight hours away to coach and support him.

"Anthony was a blessing for the track and field program," he said.

Stephanie Maggio, a sophomore, said she came to the high school with interest in soccer and decided to give track a shot as well. With SanFilippo's coaching, she ended up breaking the high school's triple jump record five times and winning a third place ranking in the county. She was hoping to continue working with SanFilippo throughout her high school career.

"To be able to break the record again and again all the way through my senior year would really mean a lot," she said.

SanFilippo's coaching also helped former student David Liebowitz bring home some of Montville's first state and county championship titles in shot put. Liebowitz said the top five shot put throwers in history "are all products of Anthony's coaching."

Check out more comments from Tuesday's meeting in the video attached to this article.

Students were not the only ones speaking on SanFilippo's behalf Tuesday night. Parents and coaches spoke as well, asking the board of education to consider reinstating SanFilippo. Mark Philhower, the head coach of the track team, said he has been coaching in the district for 30 years and through 90 seasons and that SanFilippo is the best assistant coach the school has had the entire time.

"If we lose Anthony, a lot of our program goes with him," he said.

Parent Joe Sergeant said SanFilippo teaches the students he coaches much more than just about a sport. He said he teaches dedication, perseverance and setting goals.

"He has created an atmosphere where these kids root for each other more than any other high school sport I've seen," Sergeant said.

Sergeant's son, Nick, said he feels the track program will be negatively affected by the loss of SanFilippo.

"Losing this all-around great man would just be such a detriment to this great organization that we have," he said.

Matthew Wis, a former high school student and athlete coached by SanFilippo, spoke on behalf of his sister, Leah, an incoming freshman at Montville Township High School, who is "crushed" by the district's decision not to keep SanFilippo as a coach. Wis said his fourteen-year-old sister has been named an All-American athlete 14 times and has already had experience with SanFilippo's coaching.

"He comes out of his way to coach her, to help her. He is an excellent coach, she absolutely adores him and she was crushed when she found out from people and my family that there was a decision made that he wasn't going to be coming back," he said.

Leah Wis , representing Morris County and the state in the national competition. SanFilippo accompanied her family, paying his own way for the travel and expenses involved, so that he could be there to support her.

Bob Wis, Leah and Matthew's dad and another of the parents who spoke about SanFilippo at Tuesday's meeting, said SanFilippo is the only coach he would trust to help his daughter. Wis is also a high school track coach.

"To lose someone like this, as a Montville resident, it borders on insane," Wis said.

Wis said his family was unsure whether his daughter should attend public or private high school, but part of the reason she chose Montville Township High School was because she would have the opportunity to work with SanFilippo. Wis said the kids will be most affected by not having SanFilippo as a coach.

Prior to the students' comments, Board President Karen Cortellino commented that the board votes on recommendations made by the administration. No further comments were made by board members on the topic, other than Cortellino thanking the students for their remarks.

"Your comments were heard and were very heartfelt," she said.

After the comments, an emotional SanFilippo said he was overwhelmed by the support of the students and parents at the board meeting and that he feels coaching goes beyond what happens on a field or track.

"A coach is someone who isn't just supposed to be on the field, watching people. That's not what a coach is supposed to be," SanFilippo said. "A coach also needs to get involved and to help their kids grow as people and to help  turn them into adults and help them find the right college, get involved with their families and make sure everything is going the way their parent wants, not just what we want as coaches."

SanFilippo said he feels he exceeded the expectations of a coach and that when it came to his athletes, he would do whatever it took to help them.

"I've never said 'no.' I never will say 'no,' and if that's an issue, then don't bring me back," he said.

Montville family August 22, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Beautiful homage to Coach SanFilippo! The town has spoken and they still lose out. What else can we do? The administration is just going thru the motions. Bottom line the students do NOT come first, politics do. Thank you reporter Ariana Sheehan great article.
Andie August 22, 2012 at 10:25 AM
I think they like to fire people for the sake of firing people. What is the real reason here? My child thrives under coach Anthony too. He is a pleasure to be around and an effective coach.
Montville Alumni August 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Two words: Paul Pignatello.
Montville327 August 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I was unable to attend the meeting last night, but it is clear that the support Coach Anthony has goes to an extreme level. The "Pig" continues to either dump coaches or run coaches out of town (i.e. Jerry and Brian Galligher) and notice I didn't say fire, but run out of town as in they left because of "Pig" and the Board can't seem to recognize it. It's obvious to me that someone on this board is protecting this man. It's disgusting.
Tom August 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I think it will be very interesting to see how this plays out and I hope it works out in Anthony's favor. so...when are BOE elections?
John August 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Who is protecting Pignatelo?
Montville family August 22, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't the BOE base their decision on a recommendation from the Superintendant?
Joe August 22, 2012 at 01:22 PM
The thing to do now is to continue to advocate on behalf of Coach Anthony. Contact the school principal, the superintendent, the assistant superintendents, even the AD himself. Call, e-mail or show up.
Montville327 August 22, 2012 at 01:23 PM
That is incorrect. The BOE bases their decisions on recommendations from the Athletic Director under the supervision of the High School Principal. And Tom, if I had facts on who was protecting him, I would tell them. The only thing I've heard is that his wife is very close with the wife of a high powered BOE member. But again, that's hear-say.
Polianna August 22, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Bottom line is that the Board of Education needs to step up to the plate and not continue to use the excuse that they support the Superintendent's recommendation. Paul Pignatello, MTHS Athletic Supervisor (he is not have Athletic Director certification), has during his two year tenure, fired or forced out, numerous coaches, who were devoted professionals that coached for years, who earned the respect of the students and parents alike, and made valuable contribution to their respective programs. Anthony is just another one of MTHS coaching staff on the chopping block. Anthony has received excellent evaluatons and accolates from the previous Athletic Directors...he has earned the admiration and respect of his student athletes....and he has the full support of the head track coach, who has the responsibility for the success of Montville's track program. I am hard pressed to understand why our BOE would even entertain his dismissal. Are we, as a school district, not looking for coaches who have these proven qualities. An investigation should be made into how and why this recommendation was made and should be backed up soley with facts not the personal adgenda of one man who has proven to be responsible for the continued loss of highly qualified coaches. How is a decision for dismissal made by one negative evaluation by one person, when previously there were numerous positive evaluations. Doesn't our Board have the insight and responsibility to question this fact.
Dan Grant August 22, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I don't have a dog in this fight but I am a careful observer and have been a participant in all aspects of official Montville for over 40 years. I do know this. If this coach is not retained the real reason will probably never be known. I seems that he has huge support from the people, both students and other Coaches, who are most directly involved. More often then a Board of Ed will admit, removal of this type of position has more to do with politics or some parent who has connections whose nose is out of joint or someone who is connected who wants the job. In my experience it is hard to get students to come out and support someone with whom there are legitimate issues and the removal goes unopposed. I think the Board owes it to those who came out to support this Coach to take a closer look even at the risk of embarrassing the AD.
Rosie August 22, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Right Dan. If the BOE has something to hide, it is important that they come clean with the stuents, residents and everyone. If nothing to hide, reinstate this coach. The kids seem to love him and, maybe, they are getting rid of the wrong person.
Montville family August 22, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Thank you Dan Grant! How can this be accomplished? Please tell me? Pleas to the principal, Superintendant and BOE have been ignored.
Nick August 22, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Needless to say, Anthony is a great man. Any support helps so please everyone should do everything in their power to keep him as coach.
Jewel Khubani August 23, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Regardless of whose fault it is, Anthony should not be fired period. the only reason i joined track this past season was because he told me that even though i have no experience with the sport, everybody starts from somewhere and that i will get better with time. He was willing to stand by me every step of the way until i reached my full potential. He cheered me on when i knew i didn't do too well, he told me not to let it bother me because i could only get better from here. My mother passed away 5 years ago and with my father being busy taking care of things, Anthony has definitely, without a doubt shown and taught me more about life and people then anybody else i have ever met. he is a true inspiration and i am considering not continuing with track in the upcoming spring season. No one makes a better coach and/or motivator than your best friend who is always looking out for you. Anthony SanFilippo is an outstanding man and human being who deserves only the best. I will always support him no matter what it takes.
Angelo Harasts August 24, 2012 at 02:06 AM
As others have stated Anthony has dedicated his time and money into serveral trips to support High School and town Athletes competing in Regional and National Level Meets. These meets are multi day events and several hours of driving one way to attend the meets. He was not coaching during the season but all year long.
Alex Morgan August 24, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I really is so sad that it has come down ti this and the treatment Coach Kristen and Coach Anthony have gotten from this man the athletic director,Let us see the review and who gives him all this power to destroy these good people. We as taxpayers should be able to have some say and look what we are teaching our kids!!!!!! These two coaches are the BEST and now another school will benefit . Our kids will suffer and it is such an injustice all around,The athletic director should be brought before kids and parents and let him answer us.
Montville family August 24, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I believe we as taypaying familes need to join together to demand the reinstatement of Coach Anthony. From the comments at the BOE meeting and those listed here there seems to be a lot of upset people. We need to put pressure on the Board as well as the Superintendant.
Annunciata Kirk August 25, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Could you tell me what was the point of this meeting on Tuesday If the Board of Education is unable to overturn Mr. Pignatello's decision after such overwhelming support for Coach Anthony from parents, current and former athletes. Why do we have such a powerless BOE? By the way Dr. Fried do you have any power either as the Superintendent of school? If it is the case we should dissolve the Board and ask the Superintendent to resign... Apparently Mr. Pignatello runs the show...Watch out Montville good teachers and good coaches seem like an endangered specie in Town.
Just Curious September 08, 2012 at 11:56 AM
I think that the BOE should look at the real reasons that the coach was let go. Two women that had complaints and were friendly with the athletic supervisor ( no he is not certified to be an Athletic Director) used their influence to get the coach removed. What I find to be curious is how did the administration let this go through, knowing the athletic supervisors penchant for removing coaches, without at least looking into the removal process.
Montville327 September 08, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Who are these two women? I've only heard of one woman complaining about Coach Anthony and he didn't even coach her son.
Andie September 08, 2012 at 12:26 PM
dont quit


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