The school board terminated two Eastside High School basketball coaches and the school’s athletics supervisor on Wednesday night as a result of an investigation into the school’s use of foreign players on its team.
Coaches Juan Griles, Alberto Maldonado, and supervisor of athletics Gregory Cooper were terminated, according to resolutions approved by the school board.
Ray Lyde, Jr., a girls’ basketball coach, has been suspended for the duration of the school year.
Patty Granados, a secretary at the district’s registration office, has been barred from her seasonal part-time job at the district.
The district’s actions come after the Star-Ledger reported the school was using players from overseas. As many as five international players were living with Griles, according to reports. The boys and girls team from Eastside High School dropped out of the state tournament in the ensuing controversy.
“It’s a tough decision,” said school board member Manny Martinez prior to his vote. “It’s unfortunate. There was culpability somewhere along the line.” Board members were provided access to an investigation report authored by former New Jersey Supreme Court judge John Wallace on Friday and discussed it in a special meeting on Monday.
The district has not made the investigation report that was used as the basis for the board’s vote public. “They are not public,” said state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans of the reports.
Several former players coached by Griles vouched for his character. “If you knew what he’s done for us you’d not think of firing him. To us he’s more than a coach. He’s a mentor, a father figure,” said Kyre Jackson, a former student of Eastside High School, who graduated in 2012.
“Coach Juan lifted the culture. He is known for being tough,” said Nasir Crawford, another student coached by Griles.
Zatiti Moody, principal of operations at Eastside High School, called the investigation reports “fictitious.” He said he stood by all of his staff members at the high school. “All of you have been misinformed,” he told the school board.
Moody said there’s a conspiracy to tear down Eastside High School for producing a highly competitive team.
“Eastside High School won based on skills. It had nothing to do with foreign players,” said Joyce Addison, whose son Ta’wan Grier, plays for the team. Grier is in the 11th grade, said the mother. She appeared surprised at the news reports about Griles.
“That’s not the coach Juan I know. I really don’t know that person,” said Addison.
There were also parents who wanted to see the board take actions against those involved in the scandal.
Victoria Oquendo, a mother, said her son was deprived of being on the team because of foreign players. “He had every right to participate. My son was hurt by this. I watched it taken from him,” she said. She also said the coaches being suspended are “scapegoats.” She said international players could not have got on the team without assistance from an administrator.
The board barred Granados from her part-time job at the district’s registration office in a 5-1 vote.
Board member Jonathan Hodges voted against stating he was not given enough time to review the lengthy reports. He and Emanual Capers opposed the resolutions taken against the other employees.
Capers at one point thought termination for Cooper excessive punishment. “I think termination is too harsh,” he said. He suggested probation which resulted in the board going into a closed-door session to discuss the case further; the board returned to open session and voted to terminate Cooper.
Capers also criticized the district’s investigation report. “It’s just a report that don’t make it factual,” he said.
The superintendent said the report exonerated Natalie Jordan and principal Karen Johnson. He said Jordon will return to her job as track coach following Easter vacation. Johnson has told the superintendent she intends to retire from her district job.
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