Jeff Gannon, Montclair’s beloved and respected Athletic Director was demoted because of a central office clerical error at the BOE board meeting on May 15, 2017.
Jeff Gannon had been working for Montclair High School for 18 years, and was enjoying heaps of success as athletic director. Montclair’s rowing team had become state champions, becoming the first public school to do so in 22 years. Sports that previously did not make headlines in the town were beginning to thrive: fencing, basketball, volleyball among others.
The crowd waited patiently, to find out why Jeff Gannon, Athletic Director, was demoted. The Montclair Board of Education was reorganizing its leadership before a cafeteria packed with dismayed students and parents. It did not matter to them that Laura Hertzog was sworn in as the new president, or that Franklin Turner was the new vice president. They were all going to get the same hail of questions and queries.
On Monday, citing budget reasons, the Montclair Board of Education unceremoniously demoted Gannon along with firing other faculty members working in Montclair public schools. No statement had been put forward and their reasoning was instantly deemed dubious by the community.
Head coach of Montclair High School’s crew team, Jeremy Michalitsianos only found out about Gannon’s termination from of Gannon himself. Michalitsianos urged his team to attend the Board of Education meeting, and they complied in droves. Over 30 rowers turned up, holding signs displaying their support for Gannon: “State Champions Because Of Mr. Gannon.”
After the Board spoke of needing transparency at the beginning of the meeting, the public speaking session quickly turned to point out their hypocrisy. Over 15 students lined up to voice their opinions on the matter, and more than 10 adults. Every person that got up to speak had the same underlying question: Why?
Crew team captain Kjel Schlemmer says he was “shocked” at the decision. “We’ve come to find out the real reasons. I believe no one was asked about Mr. Gannon, because if they’d asked any student athlete or teacher, we’d say nothing but great things about him. He supports every sport with enthusiasm and Mountie pride.”
Unfortunately, that question was never answered. Even after Barbara Pinsak, the interim superintendent, was forced to defend the decision, the crowd murmured disapprovingly. Pinsak said: “When reductions are made, the reductions don’t always fit the budget. So occasionally, and more often than not, further reductions have to be made.” While that may be true, is it relative to Gannon being demoted? Montclair High School will still need an athletic director, and in the words of Walter Springer, the first parent to speak at the meeting,“you are replacing somebody that is already successful.”
The Montclair Dispatch is looking into the prospect that Gannon’s demotion was recommended by former interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi. Bolandi served for two years but was unable to gain the full support of the sitting Montclair Board of Education and local elected officials, and was subsequently never offered the job.
The Montclair Board of Education is now on their second interim Superintendent, who appears to be simply rubber stamping the dubious personnel recommendations left behind by Bolandi without any proper or thorough review.
Gannon’s demotion appears to be the result of a clerical error on behalf of the central office staff. The staff is responsible for ensuring that all vice principal and director level staff receive proper and timely administrative training.
The Montclair Dispatch requests any information pertaining to our investigation of the story. Please email any tips to firstname.lastname@example.org