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Former BTHS Football Coach Appears in Tense Tenure Hearing

Despite plea, not enough votes in favor of extending tenure to Patrick Dowling

The township Board of Education reversed its decision against granting tenure to two district employees Monday night, but a motion on a third – former Dragons head football coach and current special education teacher Patrick Dowling – failed to garner enough board support to reverse a previous vote.

Dowling was among three teachers who were not granted tenure in April, when the board voted on a long list of teachers recommended by administrators to receive it.

Two of those teachers, John Bach and Adam Sacco, will now receive tenure following private hearings, known as Donaldson hearings, held Monday night where they pled their cases to board members.

Dowling requested his hearing be held in public, however, and what ensued was an oft-heated exchange with board members scrutizining Dowling's record and Dowling accusing board members of playing politics.

"My goal here tonight is to bring an end to the personal attacks on me, my career and my education," Dowling told board members as he began his public address.

"I have never stopped being the teacher I was hired to be. I have never failed the children," he said. "This district failed me and the children. I have not failed this district."

Several witnesses, including Superintendent Walter Hrycenko, supported Dowling.

"No matter who talks about Pat Dowling, everyone talks about the character he possesses and how he shares that with his students," said Hrycenko, calling the former coach a role model for his students.

"Coach is one of the biggest influences of my life," said BTHS student Kelly Martyn, reading a letter written by her brother, former football player Sean Martyn, who is now suffering from cancer. "I just hope you do the right thing."

But board members took issue with some negative remarks given to Dowling in employment evaluations, including an allegation that he relied too much on worksheets, had trouble managing his classroom, was sarcastic towards a student during an evaluation and had a student fall asleep in his classroom during an evaluation.

Dowling defended his record, however, telling board members the vast majority of his evaluations were positive, and circumstances differ in special education classrooms.

"I know the makeup of my children in the room," he said, of the evaluation that mentioned the sarcasm. "Some days they come in cursing me off. I can't write them up every two minutes. I don't think it was a fair assessment of what I do in the classroom."

Board member Susan Suter said she was "offended" by Dowling accusing board members of denying him tenure because of the controversy surrounding him replacing legendary head football coach Warren Wolf.

"I know nothing about football," Suter said. "This is about your job performance."

But there was evidence the football controversy – after he retired, Wolf did not agree with Dowling's hiring and later was successful in running for a seat on the board – did find its way into the hallways of Brick Township High School.

After board member Walter Campbell asked why none of Dowling's observations were performed by his building principal, as is customary, BTHS Principal Dennis Filippone admitted he was "advised by my superiors that it might not be in my best interest to observe Mr. Dowling" due to ongoing controversy.

Filippone said he was not ordered to refrain from observing Dowling, however.

"In hindsight, it was probably a bad decision" not to observe Dowling himself, said Filippone.

At one point in the hearing, board member John Talty said the district "created a job" for Dowling after originally hiring him as a coach, leading to other teachers being shuffled around to make room.

Dowling admitted he applied to be a coach and was offerred a regular teaching job during the hiring process. But further discussion on the matter led by Talty visibly upset Hrycenko, who turned to board attorney John Sahradnik and said, "Jack, make him stop."

"Stop this now or I will file charges," he said.

Sahradnik then advised board members to discuss only Dowling's teaching record.

Discussions continued, focusing on Dowling's classroom management skills and other issues cited in evaluations.

Eventually, board member Kim V. Terebush made a motion to extend Dowling a contract and offer him tenure. When it came to a vote, Terebush and Campbell voted yes; Talty voted no; and Len Cuppari, Susan Suter and Sharon Kight voted to abstain. Board member Larry Reid was not at the meeting.

Suter and Kight both said they needed more information before they could make a decision; Cuppari was forced to abstain because he is a principal in the Howell Township school district, where Dowling serves on the Board of Education.

Because there were not enough 'yes' to constitute a majority, Sahradnik said the result of the April vote – which did not extend tenure to Dowling – would still stand.

The board has 72 hours to hold another vote on the issue, however, and Dowling's attorney, Stephen B. Hunter, said his client would agree to extend that deadline.

Under state law, teachers must either be granted tenure or denied tenure and let go after three years in a school district. Dowling's third year will end on the last day of school this month.

Joseph Woolston Brick June 12, 2012 at 11:57 PM
My first observation is, there are only a few BOE meetings a year, there shouldn't be any excuse for any board member not attending unless there is a death in the family or extreme illness with hospitalization. Second, this whole thing is about football! This year I have lost respect for two people I liked and respected. I saw "politics" raise it's ugly head, politics I thought would never be used by the two people I knew. Warren Wolf to me was a great man, most respected teacher and an accomplished Football coach, when I voted for him for the board, I did so because I thought he would be for the kids, but then I saw the real reason he wanted that seat on the board, to get rid of Dowling as coach, after mission was accomplished he left. I felt like a total idiot, I was conned and used by Wolf in the voting booth. Then Talty who again I thought wouldn't be involved in the politics of Brick and I thought wanted his seat to help the kids, seems to be continuing Wolfs work. A kid fell asleep during his class? Did anyone ask the kid why? Was he/she up late studying, working, partying? Next time you go to a BOE meeting, take a look around you and see how many people are nodding off. Guess that means some members need to be replaced!
JB June 13, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Right on! Who do these board members think they are? I don't know Mr. Dowling, but I am embarrassed of this BOE. I am embarrassed to send my kids to this district. Stop getting involved in Personnel matters, that is what the administrators are for. This whole saga makes me sick, with the Principal at Drum Pt to these teachers.
JB June 13, 2012 at 12:54 AM
This nonsense is really attracting quality teaching candidates to apply and work in Brick....how sad? This is a perfect example why teachers need tenure! Imagine how many more staff this BOE would be after if they were't tenured....
gimmeabreak June 13, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Are you people kidding? CLEARLY the guy was hired for a job that didn't exist, along with one for his assistant. It was sham with the super and the old board right from the start. Were you crying about politics then? This guy goes through districts like Kim Kardashian goes through men. the guy goes from step 11 in Monroe to step 18 in Brick? Really? Nothing dirty there, right? It goes both ways. You can't get hired as a political scam and then complain when you get found out. All his cronies just went on and on and on and on about FOOTBALL and nothing else! Not ONE student or parent of a student! If all it takes for a tenured overpriced teaching job in Brick is having people say you are a good coach and you have a lot of mouths to feed, then why do we even require college degrees? You people are so ignorant it isn't even funny. GREAT teacher who lets his kid curse at him; way to control a classroom! Oh, and those of you who think the bar should be lowered for these kids are completely out of touch. Your kids will be living with you and on welfare when they are 43 because they won't be able to keep a job because you are telling them it's okay to curse at people because you are classified. Let it go already! Brick is not the NFL breeding farm. Worry about your kids getting an education and let the football stories go! All we needed was Springsteen's Glory Days playing in the room last night! Maybe all these backroom deals is why the super got the axe.
george June 13, 2012 at 01:31 AM
So who believes a word said by Pat Dowling??? Not me. He kept on wanting to throw out his bad evaluation. Instead of owning it and admitting he might have had a bad day, he chose to malign the administrator who wrote it. Mr. Hrycenko thought enough of this person to appoint and recommend her for the position, and yet he didn't think enough of Mr. Filippone to allow him to evaluate Mr. Dowling. I smell something fishy here. Why doesn't everyone just let this guy go to the next school district like he always does? How many has he been in now? A 22 year teacher should have control over his class, no matter how many times Denny D posts things on this blog, he still was only an in school suspension teacher who watched tv all day and played on the computer. He really is no judge of how a well managed special ed class should function. No offense Denny, but you really need to leave this blog and go to St. John Vianney with Tony C. and fade away from Brick. Stop the vicious attacks on John Talty and now Susan Suter. They have the guts to ask questions instead of rubber stamping tenure on a person or just grand standing like Mrs. Terebush does.
george June 13, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Mrs. Suter, I commend you for your intelligence and hard work and taking the time to read through all those evaluations. Mr. Talty I also respect you for taking your time and spending it on the children of Brick as a BOE member. Your honesty and integrity show through everything you say. What everyone does not know is that Mr. Dowling dooped us all. He is already employed in South Brunswick. That was all a show last night. So Dan Duddy, Denis, William Kleisslor, and the magnificent peeping Ed Cole, you were all used, How does it feel? Off to another school district we go with our 6 little munchkins in tow. And let's not forget Brunhilda Dowling who had to sit with Walter H at all the football games. Can you get Walter a job too Pat? He worked so hard for you.
Ed LeFurge June 13, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I disagree! Mrs. Suter is one of the best board members in my opinion. She does a lot of work that goes unrecognized. And actually I do know why she wasn't there last night, and quite frankly I don't think that's anyone's bussiness.
Ed LeFurge June 13, 2012 at 02:30 AM
The only thing that is likely to happens is Mr. Dowling appealing to the Commishoner. The board has a 72 hour period to make their vote, and they decided to last night. Unless a something miraculous happens, don't expect another vote to occur.
Ed LeFurge June 13, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Well put George!
Anthony June 13, 2012 at 02:43 AM
They should just get rid of tenure altogether. What a joke. Teachers that are complete slackers are skating by and collecting a paycheck. Teachers should be judged by their merits, and the performance of their students. If you want to keep your job as a teacher, then you'd better tighten up your belt and--get this--TEACH! Good teachers keep their job, bad teachers are sent on their way. Ill never understand why teachers can perform badly, be completely hated by their students, and keep their job year after year until they retire on everyone else's dime. There isn't a job like it in the world. The whole idea of tenure us an archaic and ridiculous concept and should be abolished.
J.JONES June 13, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Denny D..You had your share of out of control kids and you were respected as being fare and taking no crap..With that said some of these kids today need direction because they don't get it at home and thank god there are teachers who try to teach these kids that respect goes a long way in life ,rather temper tantrums ???
J.JONES June 13, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I am getting so fed up with the political B.S. in our schools systems..Why can't we just do whats right for the kids and forget who's who and what click are you in ?? KIDS NEED A EDUCATION ..and they don't need to hear or read about the problems the school board can't solve..They are our future and you are sending a shitty message that you can't do what right with name calling..VERY SAD..ELECTED AND OVER PAID FOOLS..
mrpipp June 13, 2012 at 10:59 AM
You have to keep a tenure system because of all the politics we are experiences in Brick right now. You can not leave the decision of who can get fired to the BOE. They have obviously proven that they will not make rational decisions, and instead will hold vendettas and hand out political favors. I agree that tenure is archaic and should be revamped, but getting rid of it and putting the decision in the hands of a corrupt BOE (most of which have never taught a day in their lives) is not the answer. ...... really the whole system of education in America needs to change!
Lori Morrison June 13, 2012 at 11:09 AM
If Mr. Dowling had a private hearing the same as the other two teachers, he could have properly addressed the issues that cannot be discussed at a public hearing. The other two teachers did receive tenure after the private meeting. Why did he want this to be done at a public meeting?
Resident June 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM
JB, beg to disagree, tenure is a horrible idea formulated by unions to protect their due paying members, plain and simple. If you are good at your job and deserve to be there, you will/should be retained, why should you be protected simply because of longevity? Results shhould be the only measuring stick. Tenure protects too many teachers that just mail it in knowing they are protected. As for the football connection, unfortunately due to the ugliness of the circumstances surrounding the hire and the poor records he produced after so much support from the superintendent it does not shock me they are trying to wipe the slate clean and move on.
Resident June 13, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Had the superintendent actually taken the overwhelming advice in the beginning to hire a coach with Brick Football roots, none of this would be happening. Do I blame Dowling for going for the football job, no, do I blame Hyrchenko for allowing his ego to over rule the consensus, absolutely! Hyrchenko is a perfect example of how rediculous tenure is......lets see, get rid of him as a super, but because of tenure, give him the second in command job.........puulleeease!
joseph June 13, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I agree that students need a education. For this to take place you need leadership that is honest , has integrity and the guts to go against the grain when necessary. This in my opinion has not occurred in the Dowling case. This was a man who came to Brick and was given a salary which was 2 steps higher (approx. $10,000) than he should have received. Why did Mr. Hrycenko give him this and not do it for other so called Highly Qualified teachers who were teaching the same subject? It is my understanding that many of the BOE members had questions regarding those teachers and an administrator who were initially not granted tenure. Apparently Mr. Hrycenko refused to allow BOE members to ask those persons the questions that they wanted answered before casting a vote. After denying them a vote, the BOE got a chance to ask their questions and apparently based on the 2nd vote, their questions were answered to the BOE satisfaction. In Regards to Mr. Dowling I was present and almost every speaker who spoke on Dowlings behalf spoke about football, and why it was important to vote for Dowling otherwise Coach Wolf legacy would be compromised??? After watching this spectacle one must come to the conclusion that this was a staged event designed to intimidate the BOE, which is some cases was the result. Let us keep in mind the Observation that was negative to Mr. Dowling was the last official evaluation done and I think showed he did not have good class management of the class.
ParentM June 13, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Lori - DennyD said exactly what I would have said. Let the man (Mr. Dowling), do his job. I don't agree with tenure either but thats what we have, and he obviously has earned it! This BOE needs to step back.
Julius Magnussson The 3rd June 13, 2012 at 01:49 PM
THE CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE SAVE MR. DOWLING.... SAVE THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Julius Magnussson The 3rd June 13, 2012 at 01:56 PM
you and george need to get a room
Julius Magnussson The 3rd June 13, 2012 at 02:12 PM
John Talty is that you?
Julius Magnussson The 3rd June 13, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Mr. LeFurge were you even there at the meeting?
Ed LeFurge June 13, 2012 at 05:24 PM
yes i was
GROWUP People June 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I agree with you Brick resident82, I personally can't stand how the BOE is behaving! I didn't like it before when Wolf and Talty were being treated poorly ( in my opinion) it was all about the power to control the vote and they were treated as if they weren't part of the board. So the tables turned and the Brick Residents voted and gave the power to Talty and Kight. Unfortunately power seems to make grown adults act like bullies...Now we have the same exact thing going on with the BOE once again! When are the Brick Residents going to find people to hold these positions and do what is right for the CHILDREN for a change instead of the BOE acting like CHILDREN! It is very upsetting and all its doing is teaching our children that all it takes is to have the numbers. It is obvious what this whole thing is about, it has been going on for the last few years, just different sides taking turns being the bully!
GROWUP People June 13, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Would it have been a better idea to hire someone with Brick roots first, well of course. One would think if you went to school here and lived here your whole life, you would get preference over someone from outside of our community...however it was not and is not Dowling's fault and he has been getting punished since day one!!! And everyone knows it! He has 6 children and I know a little about trying to support a family of that size...Why did he put this out in the public for discussion...well that is simple...it's been in the public since he got the job, years ago. I hope all you Dowling hater's do not move out of Brick because how would you feel if a town treated you as poorly as HALF of our town has....SHAME ON ALL OF YOU both new and old BOE members for using this man in this way!
Resident June 14, 2012 at 09:32 AM
The shame is on Hrychenko, he should have set his ego aside and listened to what the towns residents wanted. Dowling heard the uproar and took the job anyway, he could have stayed in his last, what, 3 district jobs, but took the gamble, no one forced him. I sat through a football banquet where Dowling spoke only of himself and barely mentioned the accolades of his players, I knew enough then.
Embarassed brick resident June 14, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Unbelievable!!!! It is so sad an so blatantly obvious that the Brick BOE is corrupt!! Ew! I am embarrassed for you... Ps check the tape a few of you fell asleep during the meeting that was started an hour an a half late .. Maybe u need to get control!
SMBrick June 15, 2012 at 04:24 AM
It was EMBARRASSING to see how Kight, Suter and Talty acted at that meeting. There is no meeting in any public forum that should have been run like that zoo. And then for them to say "they need more information" in order to vote...I mean really...what information? They have a responsibility to vote up or down on the appeal, whether or not one's husband was ousted as booster president. A person has three years of reviews, almost all stellar, has students, other faculty and sfaff saying he works well there, why do you trash that individual? Only reason is politics, football (Wolff who is now working outside of Brick, how ironic), and a corrupt board. How can three people (Kight, Suter and Talty) act that way and go home and to their own families, to their children? How can they do that, destroy a person with innuendos and as Talty said "having information" that he can't share, but somehow "knows," throw those allegations out like it is fact and then sleep at night? They will someday have to account for their actions to a much more important higher power for destroying someone's life..good luck with that.
ashamed of brick June 15, 2012 at 09:11 PM
what a shame that the boe got there way and didnt give tenure to coach dowling. hoping that the future is brighter for him else where. coach dowling never had a chance he was treated like an outside from the get go from the leader of the school and all the followers of mrs. kight. and for those who ruined someone life over football, how do you sleep at night....remember karma
Joseph Woolston Brick June 19, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Resident, It's obvious you are not a teacher or don't have one in your family. Tenure is not a horrible idea and came about in the early days of the unions not to keep bad teachers working, but to prevent unfair practices by BOEs, Principles, Mayors and other people in power. Good teachers would be fired because someone in powers niece just graduated from college and needed a teaching position, back in the day, no problem if Uncle Politician was on the board or someone in power, he would just fire and replace with the niece/nephew newbie teacher. Sound familiar sort of like our own town hall shenanigans.

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