HomeLawrence LedgerLawrence Ledger NewsState ruling allows former police officer eligible to coach basketball at Lawrence

State ruling allows former police officer eligible to coach basketball at Lawrence

Billy Chester believes in the three P’s – patience, perseverance and a positive attitude.

The three P’s have now paid off for Chester, a retired Lawrence Township police officer who has his heart set on coaching the boys’ basketball program at Lawrence High School.

In January, Chester learned a stumbling block that was in his way – the lack of a teaching certificate that is required of all public school coaches –  has been removed.

Chester was granted a certificate of eligibility under a recent amendment to the career and technical education teaching requirements.

This ruling means that he can teach a course in law enforcement, which in turn, makes him eligible to apply to become a coach for the next season.

It took more than a year of patience to conduct research; perseverance to attend New Jersey State Board of Education meetings; and a positive attitude to lobby for changes to state regulations to reach his goal in an admittedly uphill battle.

It did not hurt Chester’s cause that members of the state board were already considering making changes to the career and technical education teaching requirements, but it was not a “done deal” as to whether the amendment would be approved.

That is why Chester was surprised and elated when he received an email on Jan. 23 from the New Jersey State Board of Examiners and the New Jersey Department of Education Office of Certification and Induction with the words he wanted to see.

“Congratulations, William Chester. Certificate of Eligibility issued. Endorsement – teacher of law enforcement.” That is what the email said, according to Chester.

“I was pinching myself. It took my breath away,” he said.

When his smartphone “dinged” with an email notification, Chester was working at the front desk at Lawrence High School as a security monitor. He has worked for the Lawrence Township Public Schools in that position since 2015, following his retirement from the Lawrence Township Police Department.

Meanwhile, grateful for the support he received from Lawrence Township school district administrators when he approached them at the beginning of his quest, Chester attended the local Board of Education’s Jan. 30 meeting to share the news and thank the board.

Chester told board members he was informed by Sean Fry, the school district’s director of personnel, that he was the first person in New Jersey to be eligible to use a certificate of eligibility to apply for a coaching position under the rules of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing for scholastic sports in the state

Chester said that “never in my wildest imagination” at the beginning of the journey, which started in December 2018, did he ever believe he would be granted a certificate of eligibility to teach law enforcement. He was a Lawrence Township police officer for 25 years.

“But it seems this is the path that was destined to be, because coaching basketball is all about ‘teachable moments.’ I guess now you guys should think about adding (a law enforcement course) to your curriculum,” he told board members.

Chester, who has coached boys basketball for the Lawrence Township Recreation Department since 1990, said all he ever wanted was to be able to apply and interview for a basketball coaching position, just like everyone else.

“The entire process to get to the point where I am today was like traversing a mountain that you think you can’t climb, but you are going to try your best to get to the top,” he said.

He attributed his accomplishment to his belief in the three P’s of patience, perseverance and a positive attitude.

“I want to portray this type of confidence in young people, and particularly our boys. All I want to do is to be the captain of an education-based mentoring program that turns our boys into responsible, positive-thinking young men,” he said.

That will not happen overnight “because these are boys, but all things are possible if you believe,” Chester said.

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