In wake of arrest, Google searches, reference checks added to hiring process of New Canaan coaches
NEW CANAAN — High school officials are continuing to hone the process of background checks and certifying coaches after an incident this spring cast doubt on the effectiveness of the process.
“I know we had an issue this year with a coach. Has there been any talk about additional screening or any change in procedure or anything to that effect,” Board of Education member Jennifer Richardson asked New Canaan High School Athletic Director Jay Egan at Monday’s regular meeting of the board, at which Egan was giving an athletic department update.
Richardson was referring to assistant basketball coach, Jose Amor, who was charged in March with possession of heroin in Stamford. Amor stepped down after the news broke, but it was learned after that he had passed the district’s mandatory background check and that he did not have an up-to-date certification.
New Canaan Public School’s Director of Human Resources Gary Kass said at the time that the school’s current background checks, conducted by North Carolina-based company called Background Information Bureau, report county, state and federal records, Kass said, and also check the National Sex Offender Registry and international records.
But the checks did not include Google searches, until recently.
“We will do the social media background check which we weren’t doing in the past,” Egan explained. In addition, a personal reference check will be conducted for all new hires by someone outside the athletic department — likely from Central Office or the high school’s main office — “to add another check,” to the process, Egan said.
Egan also described a new database offered by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) that allows athletic and human resource departments to maintain a full listing of coaches and assistant coaches listing their most recent certifications. However, even with the database, certain coaches may still appear uncertified.
According to Egan and members of the Board of Education, these certifications may have a lag time of up to eight weeks, at which point the certification is backdated to when the paperwork was received.
“Oftentimes, because it’s a state agency, they can have wait time just for paperwork,” said Board of Education Chairman Dionna Carlson. “By having all those boxes checked, we can assure that they would’ve been certified, it’s just we’re waiting for the state’s paperwork to come through.”
This backdating is necessary to make sure that assistant coaches aren’t missing weeks of a season waiting for their certifications. In addition, Egan and Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi noted that the cost of maintaining an up-to-date certification — which can cost more than $700 — may also be prohibitive to some assistant coaches.
“This is a problem statewide. The turnover of coaches everywhere, the bottleneck of the paperwork, the availability of courses people need to take. And then, even like you say, the money. We’re talking about folks who might be working for 0.25 an hour to work with our kids,” Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi said. “Then we’re asking them to pay all this money up front.”
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