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School Board Fires Teaneck Rowing Coach

Officials cite safety in axing coach

Students showing support for fired Coach Clemens Reinke / Submitted photo
Students showing support for fired Coach Clemens Reinke / Submitted photo

The Teaneck Board of Education has fired the high school’s popular rowing coach over claims that rowers were continually put in danger, NorthJersey.com reported.


School board members voted unanimously at a Wednesday night meeting not to renew the contracts of Coach Clemens Reinke, and his assistant coach, Sara Elmiligi.


Teaneck Schools Superintendent Barbara Pinsak proposed terminating Reinke over a series of alleged incidents that put students in danger and opened the district to liability, according to the report. In one purported incident, high school rowers almost crashed into a collegiate-level crew.


About 50 parents and students turned up at the meeting to protest the decision. Reinke’s supporters also gathered about 100 signatures and pushed school officials to explain the decision after word first emerged Nov. 12 that the coach could be fired.


Supporters have also suggested that Reinke, who is also the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, was being fired for not being able to attend Sunday races because of his church responsibilities. Reinke met with district officials Nov. 21 to discuss his pending termination.


A letter Reinke wrote to Pinsak makes no specific mention of the district’s safety concerns and proposes using a volunteer coach to help staff Sunday morning events.


“I am hopeful that the Teaneck Board of Education will make the right decision, and not discriminate against me on the basis of my religious duty and practice,” the Dec. 2 letter states.


According to the report, at least one student cited the accidents at justification for firing the coach.


Tee Smyth December 07, 2013 at 08:57 AM
John, those folks are singular in their focus. There is no room for debate or discussion. Let them be.
Mike D December 07, 2013 at 10:27 AM
It always boils my blood when I see kids suffer like this. I heard of ONE safety concern here. The possibility of an accident occuring smashing into a high school swim team. It's a bunch of BS to say that he was fired over safety concerns...call a spade a spade here. This was done for one reason and one reason only, because the board member didn't like that her daughter wasn't the star of the rowing team. I'm not even from Teaneck however, the fact that a board member's kid is on the team, the matter was brought before the board, stinks in and of itself. Secondly, unless this Clemens (the coach) became a pastor after signing the contract, the school knew he was a pastor before they hired him! A contract is a two way street. Thirdly, as to the imbecile posting that a team involving a bunch of minors in the boat on the water traveling at high speeds doesn't need a coach or supervisor and that is a waste of taxpayer money, you need psychiatric help. In closing, it really pisses me off when the few go against the wishes of the masses. This gentleman did nothing ethically wrong, he didn't put the kids in danger from what I see, and the kids overwhelmingly liked and respect him. (Something you don't see too often in youth sports today). This was clearly done because of his religious duties or because of a personal vendetta. Congratulations Teaneck Board of Education you've just opened yourself up to a lawsuit (talk about waste of taxpayers money!)
Adam Johnson December 07, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Some Board members actually spend an enormous amount of their time and energy to serve the district - all without any compensation. They are true public servants but unfortunately there are others who are not. The compensation is not always money; it is about control and setting themselves up for future elected office in the Teaneck Council. For an ethically conflicted BOE member It doesn’t end when they leave the school board, it goes to The State of NJ Department of Education School Ethics Commission hearings soon for the specific board member as well as all those who colluded (18A:12-24.1). To make misinformed/ biased decisions or to take the ‘my way or the highway’ approach sucks. BOE members, educate yourselves before you vote. Don’t tag the line of one biased member who opens you to a lawsuit costing the town more tax payer dollars. There will be a recall campaign.
Jessica Gonzalez December 07, 2013 at 11:29 AM
How sad for the OCRAP president. Must be real desperate to pay a fee and volunteer his time. If OCRA is indeed a private organization it should not dictate to a public school board. It continues to do through the OCRA president and the BOE members. Good administrators unwittingly fall for that.
John Santaella December 07, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Thanks Tee, but I'm looking at my grandchildren and I'm still hopeful for their future.
Tom Abbott December 07, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Interesting that the "Jessica Gonzalez" post was first published as "Adam Johnson" then deleted and quickly republished under a different name. I wonder how many other names they post under.
Lisa McDermott December 07, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Very sad news!
Tee Smyth December 09, 2013 at 09:03 AM
For those of us not in the know, can you just say what it is instead dancing? Are you saying that Ms. Fisher has a daughter on the crew team? @ Mike D. There's a little something in contract law called the parol evidence rule that prevents what you suggest. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. @John. I get it, and I totally agree. I would not be who I am without having participated in sports and dance at THS. But, neither your words nor mine will sway Zizi and/or Shimon. LOL.
Jeremy Levy December 09, 2013 at 11:24 AM
The Board of Education has made the wrong decision. If safety was an issue, why couldn't they hire at least one more coach to easily solve that problem? They, along with the athletic director, should have been more aware of the issues a lot sooner so they could solve them instead of getting rid of the only coaches the team has. This just seems to be a violation of the his religious views and I believe that this should be investigated by an ethics committee.
shimon baum December 09, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Let me respond to several comments. @Tom the problem is not that the school board is not getting compensation it's that the taxpayers aren't getting any. @ Tee don't give up hope someday you amy sway me. @John Club sports are a viable alterantive. I have nothing against kids wanting to do sports I just don't want to pay for them. As for life skills they should be learning some of that in school but of course I won't hold my breath.
John Santaella December 09, 2013 at 12:32 PM
You are 100% correct Tee. It's impossible. lol
Tom Abbott December 09, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Jeremy Levy's post above is identical to Jonathon Rosa's from 6 days ago. Plagiarism or Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Jonathan Rosa December 09, 2013 at 08:07 PM
@ Tom Abbott, i'm just now seeing that. I have no idea who that is but I see that they also took out my last sentence & added their own thing. I guess i'm glad to see that he agrees.
zizi December 09, 2013 at 09:05 PM
shimon: Teaneck school system does not teach well what it should...... look at their scores and compare them to the neighboring towns...... why stop at rowing.. what about polo, golf, yacht racing... the list would never end.... at some point one has to realize that team building and skills for working together don't have to come with a high price....
John Santaella December 09, 2013 at 09:48 PM
zizi, you forgot firearms safety.
James Castle December 10, 2013 at 06:37 PM
The more I read about this the more clear it becomes just how wrong the board is in this decision. From what I've seen the board doesn't show just cause for the firing yet has numerous unethical motivations. It should be an outrage what they've done here & I hope people take a stand & I hope this coach is reinstated at once!
Sheetal Ranjan December 10, 2013 at 07:27 PM
On related news, there is still hope for some justice: http://www.northjersey.com/news/235003621_Former_school_trustees_are_censures_in_Garfield.html
Tom Abbott December 10, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Aside from wishful thinking, there seems to virtually nothing in the Garfileld censure which would be relevant to the Teaneck case.
jackie miller December 11, 2013 at 08:28 AM
OCRA said to everyone at the meeting ** If you keep the coach YOU WILL NOT HAVE BOATS, YOU WILL NOT HAVE A SPRING SEASON...***
Tee Smyth December 12, 2013 at 09:23 AM
I'm still not putting the pieces together. Why would OCRA say that? What does OCRA have against the coach?
Jacob December 16, 2013 at 09:04 AM
That's a very good question. Maybe the Bergen Record article can shed some light on that - http://www.northjersey.com/sports/235973991_Teaneck_High_rowing_students__parents_say_they_ll_complain_to_state_about_coach_s_firing_of_fired_coach_to_file_state_complaint.html?page=all
Tee Smyth December 16, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Thank you, Jacob. NOW we are getting some where!!!!!! Mrs. Fisher, who is/was on the Board of Education, is MARRIED to the president of the organization who rents boats to the team? And they had the unmitigated gall to say that there's no conflict of interest here? She should have recused herself. I'm still not certain what OCRA has against the coach, but geez. This is not cool. At all.
zizi December 16, 2013 at 10:11 PM
If Tom is right.... than I guess firing the coach was the right thing to do...... finally a decision that made financial sense.... boy.... is it really true.....
John Santaella December 17, 2013 at 01:45 PM
If a sou were spent zizi would be against it
Sheetal Ranjan December 18, 2013 at 09:28 AM
http://chn.ge/18PVCpv
Warren Green December 20, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Let’s finish the often used sentence, “The boats and equipment are provided by OCRA to the THS team free of charge”; AND the Teaneck Rowing Club submitted an invoice for $14,972 on June 17, 2013 to the Teaneck Board of Education which included a request for payment of $4,200 for “Boat and Equipment usage for 3 months” AND the Teaneck Board of Education paid the Teaneck Rowing Club/Overpeck Community Rowing Association (OCRA) $11,628.62 (between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013) for exactly what? AND the members of the 2013 Teaneck High School Crew Team raised money for their team by organizing bake sales, canning projects & a car wash; AND the Teaneck Crew Team Parents paid $120 to the Teaneck Rowing Club/OCRA for the purchase of each of their children’s team jackets, food and drink, registration fees, hotel accommodations, etc.; AND the Crew Team Parents paid $30 per student for a year-end team dinner at the World of Wings; AND with the exception of one (1) race, the Crew Parents drove the members of the THS Crew Team to all training sessions, practices and matches; AND Pastor Clemens Reinke worked as an unpaid volunteer Teaneck High School Crew Coach between November 2012 and February 2013 in order to introduce the sport of Crew to Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors and work with more experienced rowers in preparation for the Spring 2013 Season; AND more; AND more; AND more
John Santaella December 20, 2013 at 04:07 PM
An eye opener to say the least. Thanks Warren.
jackie miller December 21, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Is OCRA a nonprofit ?.....Tax exempt ?....
Tee Smyth December 23, 2013 at 09:51 AM
Always follow the money.....
jackie miller December 30, 2013 at 08:33 AM
Is OCRA a Nonprofit ?....Tax exempt????

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