The Holmdel Board of Education will wrestle with a policy question, sparked by the application of resident who wished to help out the Boys Varsity Soccer Team, for free.
Eric Hinds had filled out an application to help coach the boys Varsity soccer team, and gone through the fingerprinting and criminal background checks. He had overcome any concerns by attorneys for both governing bodies that his role as a Township Committeeman could cause conflict in occasional business between the Board and the municipal Committee.
But at its meeting Wednesday the Board tabled a vote to approve Hinds' application -- which means the Board removed his application from their agenda and did not act on it. "There is real concern about having parents involved in the sports teams once kids get beyond K-6th grades," said Board President Barbara Garrity, in an interview on Thursday.
"We have not wanted parents to be viewed as assistant coaches because of the feeling that we pay people to come on to be professional coaches, and sometimes there are sensitivities if a parent is coaching," said Garrity. By sensitivities, Garrity said she meant perceptions of favoritism. "We need to revisit the policy."
But Hinds argued passionately at the Sept. 14 meeting and Sept. 21 Board meetings that the Board should swiftly approve his application so that he could continue his role before the season ran out.
In remarks to the Board on Sept. 14, he said that last summer he began unofficially helping out the Varsity soccer team on a part-time basis.
It was a particularly exciting year. The boys Varsity soccer team won a state title for the first time in Holmdel history. Hinds said he was able to help coach about half of the practices and games, but also acted as a kind of advisor, bringing college soccer coaches to Holmdel, and writing letters on the kids' behalf.
A concern by the Board of Education -- specifically that Hinds was neither BOE-approved, nor had he had the required fingerprinting or background check -- put him in the bleachers for the last two games of the season. "The concern would have been the same for any non-Board-approved, non-background-checked volunteer," said Garrity in an email on Friday. He said he was asked to submit an official application, which he did, but which has never been approved by the board.
Hinds, a financial advisor, has been involved in several athletic youth leagues in town and runs a charity called Hope for Children. He said to the Board on Sept. 14, "Why do I do this? I love the game. I love the kids. I love Holmdel. I feel I have something to offer. There's no agenda."
"I just, really, I can't believe I am here asking for permission to do something for free," he said.
According to Board of Education attorney Martin Barger, the tabled issue "can, or cannot, come back for discussion in the future." But Hinds told the Board on Sept. 22, with barely disguised frustration, that he would not pursue the issue further.:
This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. on the same day of its publication to correct a comment by Hinds that he had taken a blood test at the BOE's request. In fact, he said Friday, the blood test he took at that time was for another reason unrelated to the BOE.
Also, the story was updated to clarify that according to BOE President Barbara Garrity, the specific reason why Hinds was prevented from continuing as a volunteer coach at the end of last season was because he had not yet undergone a criminal background check or received BOE approval. "The concern would have been the same for any non-Board-approved, non-background-checked volunteer, she said.