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Jacobs Replaced as West Orange Football Coach

Despite supporters objections, West Orange Board of Education hires Jim Matsakis as new high school coach.

Over the objections of almost 200 supporters in attendance Tuesday night, the West Orange Board of Education approved the hiring of a new high school football coach to replace longtime coach John Jacob.

In a 4-1 vote, with board member Ronald Charles dissenting, the board approved the hiring of new head coach Jim Matsakis despite pleas from community members, students and former players for the board to let Jacob retain his job after 10 seasons.

More than a dozen residents offered testimony how the school community sees Jacob as more than a teacher or a coach. The parents and students also demanded transparency from the board why Jacob was removed.

The residents cheered Jacob when he appeared at the meeting and several times throughout when speakers offered public support for him. However, residents did not treat school administrators and board members as kindly when they defended the decision to change coaches. 

After thanking Jacob for providing years of leadership on and off the field and reiterating that he will remain at the school as a physical education teacher, West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore became emotional while he defended himself and interim Superintendent James O’Neill from allegations of corruption.

“I’m not part of a corrupt process,” said Moore. “All [prospective] coaches were made aware of the process… I understand some of you may be disappointed in the outcome. As a new principal, I realize there is no decision that goes without some measure of criticism. I understand that. Coach Jakes did a lot of work here… I didn’t see any indication of [corruption in this process]. I ask that when you have the opportunity to greet our new coach, please do so with open arms.” 

O’Neill tried to clarify the process that went into hiring of the new coach. He said the administration began the interview process with 21 qualified candidates, including Jacob. All candidates were asked the same questions in the first round of interviews.

The field was then cut to 12, where 75 percent of the questions were the same; 25 percent were tailored to the individual based on answers given in the first interview. The field was then cut down to four and the decision to recommend Matsakis to the board was then unanimous. 

“I just wonder how that process could appear to be corrupt,” O’Neill said. “Kids try out for a team, sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. When coaches apply, they are in a similar competition.”

In 10 seasons Jacob’s sported a 51-49 record, finishing 5–5 last season.

The boy’s lacrosse and the softball coach have also been replaced since O’Neill took over.

Ken February 27, 2013 at 06:56 PM
It'd be nice if our elected Board members would occasionally deign to let us peons know their reasoning behind one of their decisions. Maybe then we'd have grounds to form a reasonable opinion on whether we agree or disagree with them. This current model of "trust us, it's not corrupt, but trust us!" isn't working for me.
Gary Englert February 27, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Missing from this report is that the vote to hire Coach Matsakis was taken prior to any public comment on the matter. Ergo, the issue was decided prior to any objections being voiced, rather than "over" them.
john anthony prignano February 27, 2013 at 07:44 PM
In "1984" George Orwell wrote; "He who controls the past controls the present. He who controls the present controls.the future." in his letter, Jacob said he had been the West Orange varsity football head coach for 10 years. The Star Ledger - " Jacob coached the West Orange Mountaineers for 10 years , compiling a 51 - 49 record, including 5 - 5 last season. " Jacob was the head coach for ELEVEN years. His overall record as head coach was 52 - 58. He was 1 - 9 his first season. Eliminate that first year, and his record is. 51 - 49. Someone told the Star - Ledger Jacob's record was 51 - 49. Jacob wrote he had been head coach for 10 years. A dedicated head coach doesn't know how many years he coached.
wohopeful February 27, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Perhaps now that Mr. O'Neil and Ms. Casalino have completed their oh so important yet absolute unnecessary overhaul of the coaching staff they can address some of the real issues of the failing West Orange Schools, children unable to pass basic skills testing, massive taxes for pitiful results, drugs and violence in our schools, etc.
Franklin Street February 27, 2013 at 10:58 PM
How does a good coach like Jacobs(he did turn around a terrible program) get fired while a failure like the basketball coach does not. Someone has a lot of explaining to do.
Franklin Street February 27, 2013 at 11:03 PM
If a coach had a shortcoming then it is the duty of his boss to tell him or her what area needs improvement. Otherwise how do they expect the coach to change and do a better job? The whole process is a joke. Shady stuff like this does not happen in private industry. Another reason to break up the public school monoply.
James Johnston February 27, 2013 at 11:53 PM
It is not true that West Orange schools are failing. There are many successful and happy students in WOHS, who continue their progress at top colleges and Universities. While the demographic has changed over the past 20 years, the school staff has remained dedicated to the education of all its students. It is not the fault of the BOE or the teachers that median scores have been low. It is the fault of the failing students, and their parents, who expect results without effort. I do wish that the members of the community who are so busy pursuing their own agendas, and creating needless controversy, would focus on the education of our children. I suggest that wohopeful is certainly a misnomer.
john anthony prignano February 28, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Headline; New Jersey Youth Soccer names West Orange Coach Lou Mignone Coach of the Year. Lou Mignone is the West Orange Girl's Varsity Soccer Coach. He is also the Director of Coaching and Player Development for the West Orange United FC and Mountain Top Soccer.He is a Detective with the West Orange Police Department.He is the coordinator of the DVRT { Domestic Violence Response Team }and an instructor at the Essex County College Police Academy, and he is an adjunct professor at Union County College. He is also married and the father of 2 young boys. I am sure he received a waiver from the very understaffed West Orange Police Department so his police duty schedule does not conflict with his coaching duties.The Girl's Soccer team record was 2 - 17 - 2. NO ONE could be effective at so many different jobs. There must be someone with a lighter schedule who is qualified and wants to coach girl's soccer. Several people can't get one part - time job each. because 1 person is working those several jobs. The Coach of the Year was 2 -17 - 2. I seriously doubt ANY of his jobs are in jeopardy. 2 - 17 - 2. { and he needed a waiver from the WOPD to accomplish it }
john anthony prignano February 28, 2013 at 01:49 AM
wohopeful District third grade - language arts literacy 29.2% below proficient. Math - 16% below proficient . District fourth grade l.a.l. 34.9% below proficient . Math 17.6% below proficient . District fifth grade l.a.l. 37.5% below proficient. Math 15.5% below proficient. District grade 6 l.a.l.37.5% below proficient . Math 33.1% below proficient . District grade 7 l.a.l. 32.9% below proficient . Math 38.5% below proficient. District grade 8 l.a.l. 19% below proficient. Math 39.9% below proficient. WOHS is below the State average on the SATs , it is below the state average on the percentage of graduates who passed both parts of the HSPA, and it is ranked. 260 out of 389 schools based on the HSPAS James Johnston says the School Board,the teachers and the administrators are not to blame in the least for these results. It is ENTIRELY the fault of the lazy students and their parents, who expect results without effort. Chatham and Montclair High provide the hourly equivalent of THIRTY DAYS more instructional time than West Orange High. Every year, there are more non - core curriculum mandates added.Not only hasn't the school day and year been increased ,but classroom time has instead been greatly reduced. No one sincere about educating children properly would pull this stuff. Ask the " We come early and stay late" crowd to put those hours in the contract, and you'll have a riot on your hands. You're comment in another letter is correct wohopeful, West Orange is next.
john anthony prignano February 28, 2013 at 02:01 AM
James Johnston Regarding your comments about the parents and students - Shakespeare; "So full of artless jealousy is guilt, it spills itself in fearing to be spilt." I wonder how many teachers and administrators share your opinion of many of the students and parents.
john anthony prignano February 28, 2013 at 03:41 AM
Franklin Street West Orange was 5 - 5 in 2012. Butler was 8 - 2 in 2012. But guess what, West Orange was ranked 4461 in the nation and 124 in New Jersey. Butler was ranked 5193 in the nation and 141 in New Jersey. West Orange was actually rated quite a bit better than Butler. There is something called strength of schedule, { opponents } that plays a huge factor in rating teams.
john anthony prignano February 28, 2013 at 03:43 AM
Your comment*
Franklin Street February 28, 2013 at 06:32 PM
I think that one of the biggest problems in the high school is the lack of discipline. Two weeks ago it was reported in the Chronicle that a student was arrested for assaulting another student. Sadly, this happens all too often. How times have changed? In my 4 years in a public high school there was not ONE assault. The reason is simple. That would get a student expelled forever. Caught with drugs-you would be history. The school bends over backwards to keep the troublemakers in school. Why? These dregs of society will never be able to hold a job. Who would even hire such derelicts? What we need is for the administration to show some backbone. The troublemakers spoil it for the kids that want to learn.
Franklin Street February 28, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Butler football has come a long way. Before they changed leagues Verona played them and they would pummel Butler every year(usually 42-0). Verona usually has very good teams every year but, Butler was way overclassed. The biggest problem will be the switch from group 1 to group 5. He will have a learning curve.
Tom March 01, 2013 at 04:15 AM
I think it is positive That Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Moore are taking control of the school. They've been hired to do a job and should be allowed to without constant interference.
Franklin Street March 01, 2013 at 04:43 AM
If he was coach of the year with that sorry record then what were the records of the runner- ups? LOL
wohopeful March 01, 2013 at 10:47 AM
Perhaps then they can take control of the drug and violence problems we have at the high school and middle schools, or tackle the problems of meeting basic skills requirements, or maybe look into why the WO taxpayer spends massive amounts on the schools with pitiful results. Any one of these would be good projects for them now that they have addressed the important coaching makeover that was deemed so important.
john anthony prignano March 02, 2013 at 04:55 PM
wohopeful Last year, Washington School principal Marie DeMaio was honored for 50 years of service to the District.. A large number of parents, students, and fellow faculty members were in attendance to honor Principal DeMaio. This year, Marie DeMaio was recognized at the annual Chamber of Commerce Breakfast as Citizen of the Year.The third grade at the Washington School had 42.9% testing below proficient on language arts literacy. In math, 20.4% of third graders tested below proficient. The fourth grade had 38.4% testing below proficient in language arts literacy, and 28.4% tested below proficient in math. The fifth grade had 38.4% testing below proficient in language arts literacy, and 19.2% testing below proficient in math. Last year, Marie DeMaio was honored for 50 years of service to the District, and this year. she was named Citizen of the Year. She is not criticized in the least for those results and years of similar results..On the contrary, she is being honored for producing inferior results for many years and counting. Does she, or any administrator for that matter, advocate for a longer school day and year? Do any of them decry the reduction of school hours even as the number of mandates increase every year without fail? Of course not. Why rock the boat? The West Orange public school system does not exist to provide a quality education to its student population.
Gary Englert March 02, 2013 at 05:13 PM
^ More anonymous, negative nonsense from a poster whose disposition belies his screen name.
James Johnston March 03, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Well, now Mr Prignano. You frequently quote Shakespeare, yet it is you who are artless in your calumnies... Might I suggest Burns: "Oh wad some Pow'r the Giftie gie us, to see oursels as others see us."
Danielle Lewis March 03, 2013 at 08:16 PM
jakes was an awesome coach when I was in high school (2001-2005).. we all loved him on and off the field.. its very very sad to see him not be the head coach anymore ;o(
Gary Englert March 03, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I do believe that Coach Jacobs missed a golden opportunity to underscore what all of his supporters were saying about him...by not taking the microphone at the conclusion of their remarks, thanking them and asking that the school, and the community, rally behind and welcome Coach Matsakis...and help him further the success and legacy of WOHS football.
john anthony prignano March 03, 2013 at 10:02 PM
"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind, and the fool shall be servant to the wise at heart " I agree with Mr. Englert, I hope, as Mr. Englert did, other people will take note of Jacob's behavior. Jacobs does not possess the qualities it takes to do what Englert {and I } are absolutely certain he should have done. Jacobs passing on that golden opportunity and choosing not to speak at that oh so critical moment speaks volumes about his character.
john anthony prignano March 04, 2013 at 01:25 AM
On January 22, 2013 a letter written by Steve Brodsky appeared on Patch. Mr.Brodsky asked people to come out in support of WO Head Football Coach John Jacob. In part, the letter said; "Inasmuch as the application has been inconsistent and shockingly biased for and against certain coaches and programs, there appears to be a nefarious personal agenda at play orchestrated by someone who is determined to oust WO Head Football Coach John Jacob at any cost to satisfy his own personal desires. " About a month later, Jacob wrote a letter about the selection process. In the letter, he says four times that the selection process is very corrupt. Twice he uses the word "premeditated " He accuses someone of lying. He says people are being evasive and not forthcoming, etc. Jim Matsakis was appointed Head Coach. Did Jacob go to the microphone and say something like "The vote has been taken and the process has concluded. It is now time to put aside our feelings and join as one and support our new coach and do all we can to help him and his players and the program be successful. Tonight, I pledge my total support to Coach Matsakis and his players.." Of course not.How much more do people need to see? Jacob does not want Matsakis to be successful, which means he does not want the players and the program to be successful. Jacob is highly regarded by many people. Many students and former students say he will do anything to help them succeed. NOT TRUE BY A LONG SHOT.
john anthony prignano March 04, 2013 at 09:53 PM
PATCH! In the above article you wrote; " In 10 seasons, Jacobs sported a 51 - 49 record,finishing 5 - 5 last season. " The Newark Star Ledger reported Jacobs' record as Head Coach is 51- 49 . In his open letter, John Jacobs said he had been the Head Coach for 10 years. NOT CORRECT. NOT TRUE. Jacobs became the Head Coach of the West Orange Varsity Football Team in 2002. He was the Head Coach for ELEVEN YEARS. His record as Head Coach is 52 - 58, NOT 51 - 49. To repeat, Jacobs served as Head Coach for eleven years, not ten, and his record was 52 - 58, not 51 - 49..

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