Jack Biggs the victim of a sham in East Lyme
Disclaimer to begin: What follows is in no way a criticism or indictment of Kevin Marcoux, the newly-named athletic director at East Lyme High. Marcoux was a very good athletic director at Killingly and will be the same in his new digs.
It’s just that Marcoux’s appointment was a complete sham, sustained by foundationless prejudices and personal agendas against fellow candidate Jack Biggs, a 26-year employee of the school system.
Biggs, currently a physical education/health teacher, volleyball coach and baseball coach at East Lyme, has also acted as the assistant athletic director since 1999, understanding the vagaries of the job. He received glowing letters of recommendation from former principal Mike Susi and outgoing (and excellent) athletic director Steve Hargis.
Question: How do the other East Lyme public school employees feel when loyalty, service, success and on the job experience all crumble at the feet of a personality conflict? How do they feel knowing that, according to two sources, a parent annoyed with Biggs over the playing time of her son last season was part of this process? How do they feel knowing superintendent Jeff Newton let this happen?
How do they feel that the robots on the Board of Education, taking their cues from “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews, rubber stamped it? Seriously: Nobody in this entire mockery thought to speak up and say, hey, what about a guy we’ve employed for 26 years, who knows all the dramatis personae and has actually done the job before?
Biggs’ role as the assistant athletic director included budget development and purchasing, event management, scheduling and handbook policy. He achieved the coaching quinella of winning championships as a coach of a girls’ sport (volleyball) and boys’ sport (baseball). He was named the 2019 Connecticut High School Coaches Association Volleyball Coach of the Year. He has been a five-time All-Area Coach of the Year selected by The Day.
“I had the pleasure of working with Jack from August of 2010 through June of 2020,” former building principal Mike Susi wrote in a recommendation letter obtained by The Day. “Jack was the assistant athletic director for ELHS, a state champion coach, a teacher and a parent of a student-athlete.
“Jack understands all aspects of the athletic director position and the East Lyme community. During those 10 years, I can say firsthand that Jack demonstrated all the critical skills necessary to lead the athletic department.”
From Hargis’ letter, also obtained by The Day, “While Jack’s coaching talents are well documented and have been immensely valuable to ELHS, he also plays a critical role in the broader scope of sports in the school. He has been the assistant athletic director since 1999 and was acting AD in 2009-2010.
“In that role, he is responsible for budget development/allocation; and purchasing team gear, equipment and uniforms. He assists with athletic scheduling and event management. He has attended conference and statewide leadership and sportsmanship symposiums and has worked to develop our school policy for ‘Class Act Schools.’
“He has been instrumental in creating and implementing a school wide athletic handbook policy. Jack is a valued member of our athletic team.”
And yet the search committee recommended somebody else, purposefully and willfully overlooking that vicious pack of facts you just read from the people most familiar with the job.
A source on the committee said that some of its members advocated for Biggs. One of the infidels, according to the source, said they needed to hire from outside because the athletic department has grown “stale.”
I’d argue — and hell, I’ve only observed these things for 31 years — East Lyme has one of the three most successful overall athletic departments in the ECC over the last three decades.
I’d argue that East Lyme has the best coach in the ECC in several sports, including Rachel Redding (girls’ soccer), Mike Flynn (cross country), Paul Christensen (boys’ soccer), Biggs (volleyball and baseball), Rob Bouchey (swimming), Scott Mahon (crew), Phil Schneider (girls’ lacrosse), Gary Wight (boys’ lacrosse), and Carl Reichard (track). And then there’s only Judy Deeb, who has won more softball games than anyone else in state history.
Tell me: How many martinis did some of these people have before commencing deliberations? Because it appears to me this committee had lots of opinions, very few facts.
“When leaders throughout an organization take an active, genuine interest in the people they manage, when they invest real time to understand employees at a fundamental level, they create a climate for greater morale, loyalty, and, yes, growth,” author Patrick Lencioni wrote in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”
A more cynical fellow would suggest this become required reading in East Lyme public schools. It appears that growth is only allowed when its minions ride the alliterative boat named “Brown Nosing, Bootlicking, Backstabbing and Back Scratching.” Not with 26 years’ service, a battalion of championships and on the job training.
Sports are notorious for festering rivalries, which often lead to personality conflicts. I can say in all the years I’ve known Biggs, I have never heard an opponent — not once, ever — speak ill of him. Even in Waterford, where they’re known to break out in hives when encountering all things maroon.
Jack Biggs is qualified, successful, loyal and a good dude who has been betrayed. I read a letter to the editor in The Day recently from an East Lyme resident having a hissy fit because first selectman Kevin Seery wants to build pickleball courts in town. I’d humbly suggest that she and others in town save some of their moral outage for the outrageous behavior of everyone complicit in his farce.
Again, I ask East Lyme school employees: Do the right people like you? Or are you going to be the next Jack Biggs?
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro