BOE: Fennes Disciplined, Suspended Before Resigning

First-grade teacher's conduct with students was criticized by administrator several years after alleged incidents, but concerns did not include allegations of sexual contact, according to a board statement.

A former first-grade teacher who is facing for allegedly abusing a girl who was in his class in 2005 was disciplined by the Montville school district years later for separate concerns about his conduct with students that did not include allegations of sexual contact, according to a statement read by the school board president at Tuesday's board meeting.

The former educator, Jason Fennes, 37, of Boonton, was being held at the Morris County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Board of Education President Dr. Karen Cortellino said there were no suggestions of improper conduct called to the school district's attention at the time the reported incidents allegedly occurred in 2005.

Separate concerns about his conduct with students were raised by a school administrator in 2009, leading to a letter of reprimand and the withholding of a raise, and again were raised in an anonymous letter in 2010 that quickly led to his suspension, but those concerns did not include allegations of sexual contact, Cortellino said.

Fennes resigned in June of 2010 and , a Cedar Hill Prep official said.

The court did not have an attorney listed for Fennes on Tuesday.

Cortellino said the board wanted to provide background information to the extent it is allowed.

Fennes started working in Montville in September 1998.

In addition to teaching first grade, he eventually became the head boys track coach and in 2008 was the Northern Hills Conference Boys Track Coach of the Year. He also served as an assistant girls track coach.

He received tenure in 2001.

"Nothing at all concerning any suggestion of improper conduct was called to the school district's attention" at the time of the alleged incidents in 2005, Cortellino said.

However, in 2009, the Board of Education acted to withhold Fennes' raise.

"The basis for that public action was a Letter of Reprimand by then Principal Dr. Stephanie Adams that criticized Mr. Fennes for the way he conducted himself with students," Cortellino said. "There was, however, no accusation of sexual contact. The increment withholding was the discipline recommended by then Superintendent Gary Bowen."

In March of 2010, the Board of Education received an anonymous letter expressing concerns about Fennes that went beyond Adams' 2009 comments, but still did not allege sexual contacts, according to the board statement.

Based on that letter, Interim Superintendent Rita Seipp suspended Fennes on March 12, 2010, Cortellino said.

The Board of Education conducted an extensive investigation and, during that time, many parents came forward, with some supporting Fennes and some parents criticizing him, the statement said.

On April 13, 2010, while Fennes remained suspended, the board rescinded his appointment as head boys track coach for the 2010 spring season.

On May 14, 2010, Fennes, represented by legal counsel at that point, resigned from the district. He signed an agreement, gave up his tenure rights and resigned effective June 30, 2010. He never worked again in the district following his March 12 suspension, Cortellino said.

joe March 08, 2012 at 03:48 PM
CYNTHIA...i am glad you attend board meetings..if you do attend these matters are never talked about at a open meetings.ALWAYS AND I REPEAT ALWAYS in a closed session behind closed doors.you want incidents which will more than likely deleted by patch because everything is such a big secret in montville but here are a few...ask about the cheerleading coach who was asked to resign for doing favors for the football team members...now working in another district..or the head custodian watching movies and i mean x-rated with children in the building...forced to resign and now working in another school district..or the tennis coach for sexual harasment..these are just a few that the board swept under the rug..now the other districts have montville problems SHAME ON THEM...so if you want to hear more just ask a board member and of course they will never tell you...ONLY IN MONTVILLE...
poptart March 08, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Read this quickly because I'm sure it will be deleted... Joe, I did hear about the cheerleading coach but not the others. My son told me one day after school when he was in high school. I tried to find information on it and couldn't. I just assumed it was just a rumor when I found no information. I don't understand why these things are swept under the rug anywhere... how are we as a society supposed to protect our kids and stop these people if they are the ones protected. It's a messed up world we live in!
poptart March 08, 2012 at 03:50 PM
P.S. Joe... I heard something about another high school coach. From what I understand parents have complained but nothing has been done. But I must admit I'm not really in the loop on that at all. It is hearsay.
Caroline Turben March 08, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Wake up Montville. Not only is B.O.E. aware of all of these 'problems', look at who advises them - Stephen Edelstein. Google his record from Essex 'unindicted - co conspiritor'.
Tina B March 18, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Cynthia, for the most part I'm sure you are correct. I have to give credit to the members of the BOE and all the hours they put in and the difficult decisions they have to make. I remember reading that the prior complaints about this teacher had nothing to do with him inappropriately touching children, I think they were about his teaching style. Just as an FTI and I won't name names but a few years back when my son was in middle school, one of his friends was whacked on the back of the head by a frustrated teacher. Another member of the faculty witnessed it and reported the incident to the office. The teacher was removed from the classroom, suspended and allowed to retire with full pension etc. I spoke to the child's mother and she verified the story. Did you hear about it? If you didn't it's because at the BOE meeting they referred to her by her employee number when they said she was retiring. If they weren't concerned about other parents complaining, they would have mentioned her name, but they didn't.


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