Madison West HS football coaches quit as questions swirl around head coach contract renewal
Coaching staff at West say head coach Art Bonomie lied about his education and football credentials, and they question the district’s hiring protocol.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Football coaches at Madison West High School are quitting the team, and one player says he will not play next season all because of the head coach. Coaches and players are also not happy with how district leaders are handling the situation.
As the seasons change, football fields will soon be filled with coaches and players, players like West High School junior Richard Song.
“I wake up everyday and all I think about is football,” Song said.
Song plays guard and defensive end for the Regents football team.
“So the thought of that being torn away from me again after Covid is just something I don’t want to happen at all,” Song said.
He doesn’t know if he will play at all this coming fall, his senior year.
“I’m definitely thinking about looking at transferring, but I don’t think I’m able to play if I do based on WIAA rules,” Song said. “I have lots of friends here. I don’t want to leave them and go to a different school my senior year so honestly, I just might not play.”
Song says he doesn’t want to play for West’s head football coach because he doesn’t think he sets a good example for players.
Arturo, or Art, Bonomie was hired back in May of 2021. His hire came with glowing reviews from the district.
In this email sent to football families on May 24, 2021, West’s athletic director touts Bonomie’s five years prior experience coaching at West and his University of Michigan engineering degree.
We have officially decided on Art Bonomie as our permanent head coach of the West football program. Bonomie graduated from University of Michigan with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and went on to further his education with an Advanced Management and Leadership Certificate from UW-Madison. Bonomie has brought his leadership skills to the field, including six years of high school coaching, five years with Madison West and a year with Madison Edgewood, as well as ten years of experience coaching youth football. His strong commitment to educational athletics which include academics, positive communication, community service, leadership, and program development will allow for us to continue to build success on and off the field. As a former and now interim head coach at West this year and an active leader with the Southside Raiders we are confident the transition will go very smoothly and look forward to continuing to grow the program. Thanks to Brad Murphy for his leadership of this program the last few years. I included Art in the email, so you have his contact as well.
Alicia Pelton, MSLD
Madison West HS
“Regardless of whether they did a background check or not, she is selling those credentials that he is repeating to our parents and players as reasons he got hired, and those are false,” says former assistant coach Jim Sweet.
NBC15 Investigates reached out to the University of Michigan’s Office of the Registrar to verify Bonomie’s credentials. Registrar staff were “unable to find an Art Bonomie in our records” at any U of M campus. There’s no record he graduated or even took classes. Pelton touted the claim, and so does Bonomie on his LinkedIn profile.
Through a number of open records requests, NBC15 Investigates fought the district, even getting an attorney involved, to get answers. We wanted to know Bonomie’s salary and also asked for his resume to check his credentials. It took the district six and a half weeks to get us those records. Neither his employment application nor Bonomie’s resume mentioned his education. But it did include a copy of a certificate for CPR training.
Bonomie does list he was an “offensive assistant” at Madison West high school from 2016-2020.
At least one former assistant coach, Jim Sweet, disputes that.
“He never was a paid or volunteer coach at Madison West High School,” says Sweet.
We have asked the district and have not yet been able to confirm Bonomie’s coaching history.
In our review, NBC15 Investigates also found court records where Bonomie pleaded guilty to battery back in 2007, and the charges were dismissed after he completed a first time offender’s program. He has not had anything criminal on his record since. It’s important to note there are no allegations of abuse from current players and coaches that NBC15 Investigates currently knows about.
“It’s not even about the allegations so much as it is he doesn’t have credibility among anyone in the community including his own players. Logic says he should step down, but he won’t do that,” says Sweet.
Jim Sweet has been an assistant football coach at West for the past five years, involved in the program for ten, that is, until last week when he told the district he will not be coming back if Bonomie stays in the position as head coach. Sweet’s not alone. NBC15 has talked with three other coaches who say they’re out, too.
In an email to NBC15, MMSD’s communications director, Tim LeMonds, stands behind the hiring process the school used to name Bonomie as head coach.
Thank you for reaching out to myself, Jermey and Alicia. District leadership is very aware of concerns raised by some in our school community who are associated with the West High School football team. We have been looking into the matter very closely, and have either met with or responded directly to those individuals who have expressed concern.
MMSD requires each new hire to pass a very thorough and comprehensive background check. We can confirm all protocols, including performing required background checks, were appropriately followed during the hiring process for West High School's head football coach.
That said, due to privacy laws and district policy, the district cannot comment on personnel issues. Therefore, we respectfully decline your request. However, I can share the fact that each new hire agrees to follow all work rules included in the district’s employee handbook. When our district is made aware of a potential work rule violation involving an MMSD employee, it is followed up with an internal review and responded to accordingly based on the findings of the review.
Regarding your question on resignations. Fall-sport assistant coaching positions are annual at-will appointments and resignations or job listings for these positions are typically not determined until mid May through June. Of the 8 assistant football coach positions at West, there have been no official resignations submitted to the Athletic Director or Administrative staff. There was however an official resignation of the paid strength coach who serves all sports, and not only football. Additionally, for any sport, it is common for there to be a degree of turnover with assistant coaches each year.
Coaching positions at MMSD are based on one-year contracts. So if a coach were to leave when the season isn’t going on, they wouldn’t have to technically resign. But coaches who spoke to NBC15 say they are not renewing their contracts by choice specifically because Bonomie’s contract as a coach is being renewed. LeMonds confirmed Bonomie’s contract will be renewed on June 30, 2022.
Sweet’s fight isn’t necessarily with the head coach but the district’s decision to put Bonomie in the position.
“The real issue here is the structural issue the institutional issue,” Sweet said. “It’s very clear the AD told one story to the parents and players that is a lot of lies. That story has been buried by the school system. If a background check was conducted, then all of these revelations we are talking about here now that are proved to be lies would have come out.”
Sweet says now it’s time for the district to step up and be leaders for their students, especially when it comes to the hiring process.
“What I have seen repeatedly, there are patterns of adults trying to protect their own interests ahead of the kids, and it happens over and over and over again,” Sweet said. “Whether it’s the hiring of ADs, whether it’s the treatment of head coaches, it’s appalling and shameful. The adults who are supposed to be protecting the kids are putting their interests first.”
He says even though he is not a coach anymore, he will always be on his players’ team by supporting them in any way he can, and he says that’s why he’s speaking out.
“I feel like I owe it to our kids in the first instance. And then to their parents and maybe to the parents of MMSD to step up and raise my voice because the way the system is working is just flawed.”
Sweet says in order to make things right, in his eyes, Bonomie needs to step down or the district needs to fire him. He is then calling for a full and open search for the next head coach.
NBC15 sent four emails to Bonomie’s two different email addresses and left two messages to his cell phone number.
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