Coach, teacher learns from tough life lesson
Rick Montreal has made some bad choices and now he's living with the consequences.
The New Richmond High School boys' basketball coach and sixth grade teacher is serving a minimum of 60 days at the St. Croix County Jail.
Each school day, he's released from his jail cell to travel to his job at the Middle School. When he's done for the day, he returns to jail in Hudson.
His incarceration is the result of two driving under the influence convictions from the summer of 2007. Montreal also has a third DUI offense on his record from about 15 years ago.
His most recent offense occurred in Rusk County, but Montreal's jail term was transferred to St. Croix County so that he could continue to teach. His sentence, which was handed down in February, includes jail time, a fine and a driver's license suspension.
Montreal served a one-game suspension during the recently completed basketball season due to the situation. No details surrounding his suspension were released at that time.
There was no disciplinary action taken by the School Board in relation to Montreal's teaching assignment, according to Superintendent Morrie Veilleux, because the charges did not negatively impact his performance as a teacher.
In a candid interview last week, Montreal said the current school year has been extremely stressful for him and his family as his case slowly made its way through the courts.
"It's just something I've had to face every day," he said. "But there's more positives from the situation than people would believe. I've taken steps to redirect my life. Today, I know who I am and I'm comfortable with who I am."
Montreal can say he's grateful for the trials he's been through over the past months. He hopes to get a fresh start on life once his jail term is done.
"I can unequivocally say that I have become a better teacher, husband, father and coach because of what I've been through," he said.
Montreal said this experience will transfer to be a teaching moment for kids. It's a real-life chance to show them that bad choices can result in serious consequences.
Montreal said he will use the situation to help students through tough family situations. He said some students have had to deal with parents in jail or parents arrested for drunken driving.
"If kids want to talk about it, I'm going to talk about it," he said. "It will give me a chance to connect with kids."
Through it all, Montreal said he has remained professional and completed his duties as teacher and coach to the best of his abilities.
With his recent booking into jail, however, Montreal said it was time to let parents and fellow teachers know about his current legal troubles.
He sent an e-mail to staff members last Wednesday, detailing his recent struggles and outlining the steps he's taken to help him make better choices from now on.
He sent a letter home to Middle School parents Friday sharing the same information and noting that he takes full responsibility for his actions.
Montreal said he is attending alcohol abuse counseling and began working with Alcoholics Anonymous.
"And, obviously, I've stopped drinking," he said. "I'm back on track now."
Revealing his DUI convictions was not easy, Montreal said. He knew that some people would likely be outraged by the news.
"My overall character is in question, and I can't blame people for that one bit," he said. "I'll respect whatever anybody thinks. It's part of the process."
Even as he braces for the potential backlash of public opinion, Montreal said he's been humbled by the support of fellow teachers and staff members.
"I'm really grateful for the people I work with in this District," he said. "People are offering to help. And people are not really judging me."
High School Principal Jeff Moberg said he was disappointed when he learned about the basketball coach's legal trouble. Montreal has been head basketball coach for the Tigers for two years.
"That is not behavior that is consistent with the values of the school," he said. "You want employees to carry themselves in a certain way, and certainly this damages the school's reputation."
But the message teachers and administrators repeat to students all the time applies to Montreal's situation as well, Moberg added. A person's character shouldn't be judged by the mistakes they make but by how they make corrections and move forward.
"You have to face the situation and you have to deal with it," he said. "Rick has been proactive in taking corrective action. He's committed to change from this point forward."
Middle School Principal Doug Hatch said staff members at the school will support Montreal through these trying times.
He said he's convinced the experience will strengthen Montreal as a person.
"This will directly affect his teaching and coaching in a positive way," Hatch said.
Superintendent Veilleux called the drunken driving convictions an unfortunate occurrence but noted Montreal is suffering the consequences that come with bad choices.
"We don't like to see these things happen," Veilleux said, "because we talk with kids all the time about making good choices. But, from my perspective, Rick is doing all the things he needs to do to be accountable for his actions."
To that end, Veilleux said the District stands behind Montreal as he continues steer a new path. The District will provide whatever support he, or any other employees, may need to make positive changes.
"Any good employer will try to help an employee correct mistakes," he said. "That will help them become better employees, and hopefully become better human beings."