After coach’s arrest, district reviews hiring practices
NEW CANAAN — Despite an expired coaching certificate and prior arrests, an assistant basketball coach at New Canaan High School charged with heroin possession last weekend passed the school district’s hiring process.
School officials now say they want to take a closer look at the background checks used in the hiring process.
“We’re going to look very closely at the service that we’re using,” said Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education, the same day news broke that Jose Amor, 30, who just completed his first year as an assistant basketball coach at the school had been arrested for possession of 20 bags of heroin in Stamford.
Amor’s five-year state-issued coaching certificate expired on Nov. 19, 2017, according to the State Department of Education database, causing Luizzi to order the review of all high school coaching personnel in an April 3 letter to the “school community.”
Amor resigned from his position on Monday, but in response to the news, New Canaan Public School Human Resource Director Gary Kass explained to the board how potential hires are vetted.
“One of the things that was of concern to me when I first came into this position was the only background check screening that for years had been used in the district was fingerprinting,” said Kass, explaining that candidates would be fingerprinted at the police station prior to their hiring.
According to Kass, the process took too long and was not as detailed as Kass would’ve preferred.
In February 2016, Kass and the district enlisted a North Carolina-based company called Background Information Bureau.
“We really are interested in getting records in a much more timely way. I will get results of criminal background checks and it’s a highly comprehensive background check,” Kass said.
The reports show county, state and federal records, Kass said, and also check the National Sex Offender Registry and international records. Results are returned to the school within one to two days. The results, however, did not show charges filed against Amor earlier in 2017 for allegedly tipping off a player who he coached at Westhill High School that police were looking for him. Amor charges were dropped after he completed a rehabilitation program.
According to Luizzi, the district is required to fingerprint all potential candidates, but Background Information Bureau’s services used by the district are not required.
“He (Kass) felt this was another layer of protection for our kids, which is why we do this extra piece. We’re already doing more than required,” Luizzi said.
Also not required are Google or social media searches of candidates, though Luizzi said in his letter that he had instructed Human Resources to include online searches to the district’s background check process.
Board member Jennifer Richardson asked whether background checks are done annually so that the district can stay apprised of any crimes committed by current employees.
“Generally speaking, if something happened after hire we would hear about it,” said Kass.
Luizzi noted the schools also work with the police department to stay informed of any incidents that may happen. Because of the number of coaches employed by the school — more than 100, Luizzi said — and the cost associated with background checks, regular checks were not plausible.
Still, Luizzi said the district would continue to review its practices to address any deficiencies.
“In this specific case we’re doing some due diligence around this and as we learn more we’ll certainly let the board know and let the community know,” Luizzi said.
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