Parents demand answers on ice hockey: Superintendent responds

Parents attended this week’s Milford Board of Education meeting to demand an update on the status of the boys ice hockey program. Today, School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser released a statement saying the hockey program is not in danger.

The Milford Indians Hockey program includes students from Foran, Jonathan Law and Platt Technical High School. Parents said that Coach Sal Follo has been on administrative leave from his security job at Foran High School since March for alleged complaints about his coaching style, and they said that has left the hockey program in limbo.

Parents who spoke at Monday night’s school board meeting said they emailed school officials to try to get an update, but  got no answers.

“There’s so much to playing a sport,” said parent Jennifer Caron. “It’s about teamwork, camaraderie and togetherness, and right now there’s no togetherness.”

She and others also complained that players were pulled from their classrooms to answer questions about Follo’s coaching during an investigation, and parents were not informed about that.

“That piece was not handled property,” Caron said.

Daniel Caron said the boys need to make decisions about which team they will play for, and they cannot do that if they don’t know the fate of the high school program.

A parent who contacted the Milford Mirror via email after the meeting and who wished to remain anonymous said that while Monday’s discussion focused on the program, he and other parents also do not want Follo to return as a coach. The parent said “Follo is awful to the players,” adding that Follo verbally and mentally abused players.

Prior to Wednesday, school officials had not commented on the matter because of the personnel factor.

On Wednesday, Dr. Feser released the following statement: “The Milford Indians Hockey program is to continue. It was never in jeopardy. Staff will be present at the sports awards ceremony to honor the players and present the trophies. We will be in communication with the hockey parents regarding other questions posed.”

Follo’s attorney, Michael Dolan, issued a statement this week in support of Follo, praising his coaching ability.

Dolan said, “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.”

Dolan said Follo has become a pillar in the Connecticut hockey community, 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,” Dolan said. “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 shared a statement in support of Follo from the National Ice Hockey Officials Association (NIHOA), written by Michael J. Barile, Connecticut NIHOA Central Commissioner.

Barile wrote that Follo, as chairman of the Ice Hockey Coaches Association, has been instrumental in assisting with changes within the game of ice hockey throughout the State of Connecticut.

“Specifically, Mr. Follo has been an outstanding advocate for safety within the game of ice hockey,” Barile wrote.

“It is a pleasure officiating Mr. Follo’s ice hockey games,” Barile’s letter continues. “He has extremely good control over his athletes. We depend on strong coaches within this league to ensure that the athletes do not get out of control.”  

Barile said Connecticut NIHOA fully supports Follo.

“He has been a key component in the development of high school hockey within the state of Connecticut,” Barile wrote. “This association has awarded Mr. Follo its highest honor not once but twice. The Vincent J Reilly Memorial Award is a yearly award that goes to the Head Coach of a Connecticut High School Hockey Team that exemplifies sportsmanship and fair play.  Having won this award twice shows that Mr. Follo is one of the highest regarded coaches in Connecticut hockey.”