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New Haven Register (Connecticut)


MILFORD — Sal Follo no longer is head coach of the Milford Indians Co-op Hockey team — the technicalities of that departure depend on whom you ask — but Follo is appealing to regain the post, his lawyer Michael J. Dolan said this week.

Dolan, of Dolan & Dolan LLC, said his client was fired as head coach, while Milford Public Schools officials say that's not true — they just didn't renew him for the 2018-19 season.

The head coach position has been posted, school officials said. The team is made up of players from three high schools in the city — Foran, Jonathan Law and Platt Technical .

"We strongly disagree with the Milford Public Schools' decision to fire Coach Follo," Dolan wrote in an email. "Coach Follo has appealed his termination and will be exercising his right to a public hearing before the Milford Board of Education. We hope that the hearing will be scheduled for a date in the near future."

Follo, a longtime coach who is held in high regard on the state coaching circuit, was abruptly absent as head coach and became the subject of a school system investigation months ago after, sources said, it was reported by parents that he allegedly was verbally abusive to players, pitted them against each other, was manipulative and even mocked some of his own players.

When the investigation began — players were interviewed individually on the same day, at the same time — Follo also was put on administrative leave with pay from his job as a security guard at Foran High School, but as of May 21, resumed that school position.

On May 13, angry parents of players on the Milford Indians flooded the public comments portion of the Board of Education meeting to complain the team had been left without leadership and their sons left in limbo since Follo left.

A few days later, school officials said publicly that Follo would not be renewed as coach.

A statement from the school district said: "The district has posted the position. Parents of hockey players have been notified of these developments. They have been assured that Milford Public Schools is taking all steps necessary to ensure a bright and successful future for the hockey program."

Follo and his coaching are no stranger to controversy.

According to New Haven Register reports in 1987, Follo, who then had been the East Haven High School hockey coach for five seasons, said in April of that year he would not re-apply for the position for the next season. Follo was fired by the East Haven board on Nov. 18, 1986, following a hearing of complaints by a group of parents. Follo appealed the board's decision and on Dec. 30 it was overturned when U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey ruled Follo's constitutional rights were violated during the November public hearing, the Register reported.

The judge ruled the board's decision denied Follo due process when two character witnesses, Hamden Coach Lou Astorino and former Suffield Assistant Coach Dave Gunn, were not allowed to speak on Follo's behalf.

Follo said at the time that the Board of Education would be relieved to know he wasn't applying for the job. "I thought about it and decided I didn't want to go through another political ordeal with the Board," Follo said. "Hopefully, we can put this thing to rest. Now, the Board of Education can put their efforts into education rather than just worrying about ousting me as coach."

Parents at the May 13 meeting in Milford criticized school administrators for giving them non-answers to inquiries about the status of the team.

By then, parents said, ice time should be reserved for the upcoming season, and their sons had missed the March/April deadlines for trying out for other teams.

School officials at that point had not released any information regarding Follo's absence, citing a personnel matter.

Dolan broke his silence after that meeting to sing Follo's praises in writing: "For the past 24 years, Sal Follo has dedicated his life to the Milford High School hockey program. Throughout his tenure as Milford High School hockey coach, Coach Follo has always represented the team, the school district and the City of Milford in an exemplary fashion. As a result of his skill as a hockey coach and his commitment to the Milford Hockey Program, Coach Follo has become a pillar in the Connecticut hockey community. He is a member of the CIAC Ice Hockey Committee, and has been honored on numerous occasions for his coaching ability and contributions to Connecticut High School hockey. In 2015, Coach Follo was a finalist for national high school hockey coach of the year, and in 2017 he was awarded the Thomas Monahan Award for exhibiting qualities of leadership, integrity and professionalism. Any allegations of misconduct on the part of Coach Follo are completely unfounded, and we look forward to the opportunity to refute these baseless accusations in the near future."

Dolan also provided a statement from Connecticut National Ice Hockey Officials Association in strong support of Follo.

"He has been a key component in the development of high school hockey within the state of Connecticut," reads a letter from Michael J. Barile, CT NIHOA — Central Commissioner. "This association has awarded Mr. Follo its highest honor not once but twice. Having won this award twice shows that Mr. Follo is one of the highest regarded coaches in Connecticut hockey."


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May 31, 2018


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