The great strides made by Pinelands’ football team over the past four seasons may be coming to a screeching halt.

The future of head coach Brian Wilkinson and the rest of Pinelands’ football coaching staff is very much in doubt after Wilkinson received a letter stating his position as a history teacher would not be renewed for the 2017-2018 school year, he told Shore Sports Network.

In his second year as Pinelands' head coach, Brian Wilkinson has installed a run-heavy double wing offense. (Photo by Bob Badders).
Pinelands head coach Brian Wilkinson is awaiting a hearing to determine if he will retain his position as a history teacher in the Pinelands Regional School District. (Photo by Bob Badders).

The decision not to renew Wilkinson’s teaching position is based on the recommendation of interim superintendent Dr. Maryann Banks, who was hired in June of 2016 and has a contract that expires on June 30, 2017. Wilkinson was scheduled to receive tenure Sept. 1.

“I wrote a letter and asked why, according to procedure, and they listed the reasons as budget, money — all financial,” Wilkinson said. “They said the history department is overstaffed and they've decided to let us go.”

Offensive line coach Anthony Allocca, who works in the history department at Pinelands Regional Junior High School, was also notified his position would not be renewed.

Pinelands athletic director Will Sundermann declined comment because district policy prohibits him from discussing personnel matters.

Wilkinson was hired by former superintendent Robert L. Blake, who at the time said in a statement that “Wilkinson’s coaching experience plus his commitment to excellence and his knowledge of the game make him a perfect fit to rebuild our high school's football program.”

Wilkinson said he has had only one conversation with Banks since she was hired as the interim superintendent.

“Last July she asked me what we do with the kids in the summer and I told her I think we’re going to have a pretty good year,” Wilkinson said. “All she said was, ‘good luck'."

"It’s a one high school, one intermediate school district and there’s only one football coach, and she never spoke with me.”

Wilkinson said he requested a Donaldson hearing on Tuesday, April 18. According to the New Jersey School Board Association, a Donaldson hearing allows the staff member to present their case to the board of education to convince the board to overrule the superintendent and offer reemployment. The school board has 30 days to schedule the Donaldson hearing.

There is a Pinelands Regional School District board of education meeting tonight where members of the football team and parents are expected to show up and offer their support for Wilkinson in the public comment portion of the meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Pinelands Regional Junior High School media center.

Wilkinson was hired prior to the 2013 season and left his job as a tenured teacher in the Toms River Regional School District where he worked for 15 years. He was previously the head coach at Toms River South and an assistant at Toms River East. He arrived at Pinelands at a low point for the Wildcats’ football program and has brought it back to respectability. Pinelands had a 21-game losing streak, including consecutive winless seasons in 2011 and 2012, and routinely lost games by 30 points or more. Last season, Wilkinson’s fourth at the helm, Pinelands went 4-6 and was competitive in every game.

“Last season we finished with 47 kids on the roster, which is the highest number we’ve since Sundermann has been AD (14 years),” Wilkinson said. “It’s more than just wins and losses. There is a certain amount of pride and interest we put back into the program to where kids feel comfortable coming out for the team.”

Wilkinson said he is technically not prohibited from applying for the head coaching position again, but without a teaching job in the district it isn’t a realistic option.

“They’re getting ready to post the fall positions but we can’t apply because we don’t know where we’ll be,” Wilkinson said.

“If I don’t have a teaching job at Pinelands I don’t see how I’d be able to coach. I have a wife and four kids. I have to get a job someplace to get benefits and feed my family.”


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