BEDFORD — After fielding comments from 10 individuals Thursday evening, the Bedford County School Board said it would discuss a policy that cost Scott Zaring his job as head coach of the Jefferson Forest varsity boys soccer team.
Two years after taking the helm, Zaring’s time leading the Cavaliers from the sideline came to an end this summer. A Bedford County Public Schools policy, which applied to Zaring and his father, JF athletic director Jedd Zaring, prevents the division from employing family members who would be required to work in a direct supervisory relationship.
“No family member of any employee may be employed by the School Board if the family member is to be employed in a direct supervisory and/or administrative relationship either supervisory or subordinate to the employee,” the policy states.
During the meeting Thursday, the seven-member board did not take any action regarding Scott Zaring’s employment or the policy, but agreed to discuss the policy at its next meeting Sept. 12.
School board chair Julie Bennington said after the meeting she doesn’t anticipate any decision being made about the policy during the September meeting but did not rule out a policy change as a possibility in the future.
“We’ll talk about what the policy says and all that, but it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen in a month or two; it’s a process,” she said. “I’m not saying he’s not a good coach. He’s an awesome coach. I’ve seen him play, I’ve seen him coach, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is we have a policy, and we have to abide by the policy, and the schools have to abide by the policy.”
Zaring, a JF grad, took over for his father in 2018 and led the Cavaliers to an 11-4-2 record. In 2019, the Cavs went 17-2-2 for their best record in seven seasons, captured a Seminole District championship and made an appearance in the Region 4D tournament.
Zaring’s contract for the 2018 season started ahead of the 2017-18 school year, when his father was still the interim athletic director. According to Fred Conner, BCPS director of human resources, questions then came up in August or September of 2018 about Jedd Zaring, who by then was the school’s full-time AD, and Scott Zaring’s relationship being an issue under the policy. But the division allowed Scott Zaring to continue as coach for the 2019 season “in the interest of the program and kids.”
During Thursday’s meeting, nine people advocated for Zaring during the public comments period. Scott Zaring, who has said he understands the purpose of the policy, also asked the board to consider finding a way to allow him back.
“I love this program. You’ll not find a person more passionate about this soccer program, because this team has been a part of my life for literally as long as I can remember,” Zaring said during the public comment period. “I urge the school board to reevaluate the policy so that I may stay on as head soccer coach at JF and continue to work with these student-athletes. It’s been a privilege thus far to coach, and I’m hopeful it doesn’t have to end.”
Friends of the Zarings, parents who’ve had players come through the program and others — including Luke Hatch, a rising senior who’s played on the soccer team under Scott Zaring — also spoke, many of them offering their thoughts on Scott Zaring’s character and commitment to his players.
Alan Biggio, a Bedford native who played soccer at Liberty High, said Zaring has “changed lives” as a coach, and said not having him on the sideline leading the Cavs is “detrimental” to players’ development.
Chip Berry, who coached soccer for three decades at E.C. Glass and was the school’s longtime athletic director, echoed the sentiment, adding, “Why would you let a man like that go?”
Berry and others, like JF swimming coach Marty Ponder, asked the board to consider a workaround for the policy that would allow Zaring to return.
“Why would you make a waiver? Because the Zaring family has given their heart and soul to Jefferson Forest,” Berry said, referring to Jedd and Scott, who together have led JF soccer for 26 years, “and sometimes you’ve gotta reward people, because they’re gonna keep working hard for you.”
Ponder also asked the board to keep both of the Zarings — whom he said have helped JF’s athletic programs achieve “greatness” — in their jobs as athletic director and head varsity soccer coach.
“You need to be very careful when you deviate [from policy]. So when do you do that? I think when you look to do so is when [policies] get in the way of doing what is right. And in this case, I believe what is right is keeping Scott Zaring where he is and Jedd Zaring where he is,” Ponder said.
“… You have the right person as athletic director at Jefferson Forest, Jedd Zaring. You have the absolute right person as head soccer coach at Jefferson Forest, Scott Zaring. That’s what’s right. That’s what’s best.”
According to Ryan Edwards, a spokesman for BCPS, Zaring’s return to the helm would only be possible if the school board decides to change the policy.
Asked after the meeting about his thoughts on his prospects of returning, Zaring said he “expects the worst” but “is hoping for the best.”
“I understand policy,” he said, “but I think in this case it’s a situation where if you want to do what’s best for the kids, want to get the person that’s best for the job — and I firmly believe I’m the best person for the job — they will do what they can to make it work.”
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.