Students, parents, coaches and more speak out in support of former BHS football head coach

Members of the public called on the Bayonne Board of Education to reinstate Dwayne Williams

Student athletes, parents, coaches, residents and other members of the public have called on the Bayonne Board of Education to reinstate Dwayne Williams as the head football coach at Bayonne High School.

Williams’s contract was not renewed, according to his attorney James Lisa. Lisa represented the former football coach at the Dec. 21 meeting of the Board of Education and questioned why Williams’s contract was not renewed when the board voted to accept resolutions related to personnel.

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“All he got was a four sentence letter saying they weren’t renewing it,” Lisa said. “He wasn’t even given the opportunity to have an interview or an exit interview.”

Board Vice President Christopher Munoz, who chaired the meeting because Board President Maria Valado was absent, deferred to legal counsel for a response. Board Counsel Philip Lamparello said there were no resolutions on the personnel agenda at the meeting pertaining to the hiring or firing of any coach.

“The only resolution on the agenda is accepting a report to comply with the Super Football Conference’s report,” Lamparello said. “With respect to anything else on this matter, I am instructing the board not to answer any questions. It’s a personnel issue which should be discussed in executive session. There’s been statements that litigation may ensue with respect to this matter and with respect to their policy not to comment on pending or threatened litigation.”

Lisa reiterated that he was Williams’s attorney and added that he was unaware of any litigation, to which Lamparello repeated that the board would not respond to any questions. In response to board questions about why the board cannot discuss personnel issues, Lamparello said it was due to various legal reasons but did not elaborate.

According to Lamparello, the Super Football Conference (SFC) held a public meeting and adopted their report and the board only voted to accept the report. He said it did not vote to hire or fire any personnel and suggested comments related to the SFC be directed during its public meetings.

As the night went on, it became apparent that the decision to not renew Williams’s contract was related in some way to the football game where Bayonne High School beat Barringer High School on Oct. 29, specifically, a brawl between the two teams that broke out after the Bees claimed victory. And that the report from the SFC was in relation to that incident.

First-hand accounts

Dante Rodriguez, a current coach at Bayonne High School who has worked with Williams for the past seven years, said he was injured trying to break up the brawl.

“Statements were made about the Super Football Conference and their investigation. I was struck by a helmet as I was in the middle breaking everything up… I was never contacted… So the initial report that was sent to the SFC, that report needs to be re-investigated.”

Rodriguez added: “The first thing you do when there is a confrontation is separation. There was never any security interference whatsoever at any course of the night… I think that a thorough and comprehensive investigation needs to be conducted outside the other one and present that to the SFC.”

One parent who was at the game, Melissa Alexander, said there was no security at the game.

“The police were there, they did nothing. Then come to find out that Coach Williams and a few of his other staff members were terminated except for one, who I learned is now the head coach of the football team. How does that all come to place without due process?… You guys say it’s about the students, but it’s not. I think it’s personal… He was good enough to get the job, then one hiccup and he’s out.”

Bayonne Education Association President Gene Woods rebutted claims there was no security. “One of our members was a security attendant that night was there to break up the fight and was hit in the head with a helmet so severely that she is seeing doctors and things like that and needs to get other things done because of what happened that night.”

A former Barringer coach, Carlos Rodriguez, spoke at the meeting in support of Williams, but also gave the perspective from the other side. “Our coaching staff told our kids to get on the bus. We had our stuff in the locker room… Barringer had to get their stuff from their lockers and of course that’s where the incidents happened… I was on the football field when that happened so I can’t say exactly where it started and what started it, but I do know that we told our kids to get on the bus.”

Was Williams a scapegoat?

Some residents pointed out that there had been fights in the past that hadn’t resulted in the termination or lack of contract renewal of the coaches.

Resident Gary Dambach said, “I was not there on the night in question but I’m troubled by how it was handled. Having played for many Bayonne High School teams, there were a number of similar instances my teams were involved with. They never led to sanction or the termination of basketball coach Bernie Akin or football coach Don Ahern… The administration should not scapegoat coach Williams for one incident when under his leadership he will prevent such an incident from reoccurring.”

As a result of the situation, it appears an unnamed coach who worked under Williams is at the helm of the team. And some are not a fan. Chuck Waldron said, “You don’t just take another guy or another friend of a friend who feels like he could be a good coach… You make sure that the right man is there for the job. Dwayne is the right man.”

Many who spoke called for the board to reconsider Williams as the head coach. Portia Motley, Williams’s sister said, “I don’t know specifically what happened at the Barringer game, but I know my brother is very dedicated… He was taught by my family that we were raised as a village. That’s what he was trying to bring back. He was trying to make these children know, that every parent cared about them… Maybe if different people were in positions, maybe whatever happened wouldn’t have happened. Maybe that’s what happened here… He’s only one person… There were other coaches, the Barringer staff. Where was security? Where was the police department? Was he supposed to break up the fight, separate the team, get everybody on their prospective buses or cars or whatever?”

Williams was named head coach in August of this year.

‘You’re going to regret it’

A handful of players who Williams coached spoke in support of him.

Sophomore Justin Perry said, “With Coach Williams and his perfect coaching staff that he selected, we had a great start by blowing out Newark East Side. Then we had a tough game against Hudson Catholic. But this made us realize that this was the best possible coaching staff that we could ask for, even though we didn’t pull through. Once the season ended, Coach Williams kept in contact with us and set the goal that we would be champions next year. He also helped me receive college attention, which showed me that it wasn’t just about winning and losing to him, but it was about mentoring his athletes through life and getting them to the next level.”

Another player, sophomore Elijah Ortiz, said that Williams was a role model to the team. “He was a Bayonne High School alumni and went to a Division One college, showing us that it could be done no matter where you are from. Coach Dwayne really enjoys putting kids into colleges. He had a coach from Boston College looking for me and I’m only a sophomore.“

Laura Johnson, sister of former Tennessee Titans Wide Receiver Kenny Britt, spoke of how Williams impacted him while he played under him in Bayonne. “Kenny wouldn’t come to practice because he wanted to run the street and do other things,” Johnson said. “Dwayne would call me up and he would actually leave the field and go looking for my brother to bring him back so he could do what he had to do.”

She added that Williams was vital to helping Britt get into college: “Long story short, he went to Rutgers and made it to the NFL… If you guys don’t put him back in this position, you’re going to regret it.”

Board tip-toes legal response

When asked if the board thought this was a good decision for Bayonne High School’s future, Munoz said that the board was unable to answer any questions about the situation. Ortiz pressed Munoz further to which he said: “Bayonne High School will always be here for the community and for the students.”

Munoz said he was unable to answer any questions at the time regarding Williams, but added: “I understand your point. Thank you very much for your statement. I do appreciate all the students coming and speaking up for what they believe in. I do appreciate that and you should be commended.”

In response to later questions about the matter, Munoz clarified: “We did not vote to hire or fire anyone. We voted on a report and sanctions from the Super Football Conference.”

Lisa again took the stand, this time with the SFC report in hand: “Nowhere in that report does it recommend the termination of Coach Williams. It also says he should go to a coach’s modeling course by March 1, 2022 and he should be placed on probation for one year. I don’t know why you don’t want to tell these people that but nowhere in this report does it say he should be terminated.”

Lamparello said that Williams was not terminated and that no further comment would be given. Despite the outcry, the board did not act in any way regarding the matter.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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