Parsippany High School needs a new football coach. Guy Bertola, the brash and spirited man hired to turn things around for the Red Hawks, who went two consecutive seasons without a win, resigned Friday.
Bertola stepped down after the school district discovered an issue involving a qualification claimed on his resume.
Bertola told Patch that he made "an error" on his resume.
"The problem was that I had a couple dates on [the resume]regarding a post-grad program that I was in that I was not in," he explained. "So there was falsification on there, but it wasn't about a teaching [certification].
"I just hadn't started the program yet."
He said that while he does not hold a teaching certificate, it is possible to serve as a head coach if one has a substitute certificate.
The law reinforces that point. The New Jersey Board of Education Administrative Code mandates that if a coaching position is advertised, as this one was, a candidate must have a state teaching certificate to hold a head coach position in the interscholastic athletic program. The law also says a substitute certificate is sufficient in the event that no other qualified or interested party is available to fill the role or if the candidate in question is hired on a part-time, paraprofessional basis.
Bertola confirmed that his hiring was as a paraprofessional. He stated that he does hold a valid substitute certificate and did pass the mandatory criminal background check.
Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz would not comment publicly on the matter. Athletic Director Richard Fonti has not responded to Patch's request for comment.
"It's sad news," said Joe Jannarone Jr., Parsippany Sons of Italy chapter president and father of Red Hawks player Nick Jannarone.
Enthusiasm was high for the newcomer when he arrived last August to take over the team after the departure of former coach Mike Adams, who took a position at Oxford High School in Massachusetts. At the time, the PHS footballers had a 7-63 record over the previous seven years, including winless seasons in 2010 and 2011.
Bertola, 39, an all-state high school linebacker from Lodi, who said he had a 16-year history as a high school and college football coach in New Jersey and Florida, told Patch last summer that he was excited for the challenge.
"We are going to win some games this year," he promised.
He made good on that pledge: The Red Hawks earned two wins this season, defeating Sussex County Tech, 21-8, on Oct. 20, and squeaking past Fort Lee, 24-23, on Nov. 16.
Jannarone said Bertola informed the football players of his departure—and the reason behind it—last week.
He and other Red Hawk parents are feeling sad, especially for their sons, he said, adding that they are grateful for the spirit Bertola inspired in the team and for this season's wins.
"It was emotional," Bertola said of his meeting with the players. "I told the boys that I made a mistake, which I did. I told them that they need to double check everything before they sign their name to anything."
Bertola said he feels a great deal of affection for the boys and for what they were able to accomplish in four short months.
"Nick Jannarone's mother sent me a copy of a college essay Nick wrote," he said. "It was about the person who inspired him the most, and he chose to wrote about me. Means a lot, it really does. That was really nice."
Bertola said he is looking for new opportunties as an assistant or head coach.
"I'm proud of what we accomplished," he said. "I'm just sorry that I screwed up—and it was my mistake; the district did its due diligence and rules are rules.
"All I can do is move forward."