MILFORD — Parents of players on the Milford Indians hockey team flooded the public comments portion of the Board of Education meeting Monday to complain that their sons have been left in limbo since coach Sal Follo allegedly was put on administrative leave from his school security guard job, following an investigation into his coaching behaviors.
Parents criticized school administrators for giving them non-answers to inquiries about the status of the team.
By now, parents said, ice time should be reserved for the upcoming season, and their sons have missed the March/April deadlines for trying out for other teams.
They also complained that that there was no adult representative at an open house for new potential players and no one to represent the team at sports banquets.
“Our main concern is who is running the program in his absence. It seems like nobody is because several events have been missed,” parent Debbie Gilebbi told the board. “We are very concerned about the state of the program and the season will start and we will not be ready.”
The board has not released any information regarding Follo’s absence, citing a personnel matter. Follo, sources said, faced accusations of being verbally abusive, manipulative, pitting players against each other and even laughing at a player he didn’t favor when they failed to block a goal. Parents also said Follo put some players on the ice for too many minutes.
Follo’s attorney, Mike Dolan, who has thus far been mum, released a statement Monday night:
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.”
The letter goes on to say, “NIHOA works with Mr. Follo throughout the year and especially during the CIAC Ice Hockey Tournament. There would not be an end of the year All Star game if it weren’t for Mr. Follo.”
The letter states: “Without Mr. Follo Connecticut hockey would not be what it is today.”
Parents said Monday after the board meeting that Follo had different standards for different players and could be intimidating.
A couple of months ago, Follo was put on paid administrative leave from his security job at Foran High School on the same morning players were questioned — without parental permission — about his behavior as a coach.
Parents Monday also complained about their sons being questioned without their knowledge. They said the boys were all interviewed individually at the same time and their cellphones were taken away.
Parent Tammy Jacobellis said it’s “unacceptable” that their inquiries are not being addressed.
Dan Caron said his son has been playing for three years and now as a senior he’s being left to wonder whether he’ll play next year. He said it’s time for boys to decide what team they want to play for.
His wife, Jennifer Caron, said their son is “devastated.” She said it’s not like he’s headed for the NHL, but there has been a great value in teamwork and camaraderie from being on the team.
Caron, like the others, expressed outrage that her son was taken out of an academic class and questioned about Follo’s behavior as a coach.
“Those children are worth more than the silence we’re getting,” Jennifer Caron said.
The Milford Indians is a team comprised of students from Jonathan Law, Foran and Platt Technical high schools.