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Where are we now?

With six varsity head coaches fired — one technically resigned before he could be let go — and one resigning as part of a domino effect from those firings that began in June of 2016, Scarsdale High School athletics has seen better days. What everyone wants to know is how did we get to this point and how does this impact us going forward?

Those are both very difficult questions to answer.

While many parents are speaking up to the administration, most are not going on record in the newspaper because they are confused, scared and don’t want anything to negatively impact their children.

But I’ve gotten a sense of the questions being raised over the past couple of weeks. And a sense the community isn’t liking the answers — or lack thereof.

When it comes to personnel matters, school districts are extremely guarded and hide behind confidentiality concerns. In other words, you can ask, but they won’t tell.

Athletic director Ray Pappalardi has been the one to cut ties with all of the coaches, five of them being relieved of their yearly contracts in the offseason, just one in-season.

And parents are split. Not evenly, but there are definitely different factions and they are going at it on social media, in meetings and who knows where else.

On one hand you have people who know the reasons for the firing of the coaches. They are relatively silent and those who support the coaches blame those parents for the firings. Then you have the others who don’t know the reasons — some even who are willing to overlook those reasons in order to keep a coach they like or is good to their child — and want to know the real reasons mostly to know if their child was ever in harm’s way.

Again, silence from the administration as far as details go. And I say “administration” because if anyone believes Pappalardi is doing any of this without the full support of high school principal Ken Bonamo, assistant superintendent for human resources and leader development Drew Patrick and superintendent of schools Thomas Hagerman, you’re way off base.

But was Pappalardi brought here to cut loose the four coaches from a year and a half ago? It’s very possible. They were all longtime coaches and I’ve heard varying degrees of acceptance of the firings. The same goes for the most recent ones as far as the support they are receiving from the community.

The thing is, I know people — and many of you do, too — have been trying to get some of these coaches axed for years because they don’t like this or that. And for them, this or that is a huge deal.

Is it playing time as many parents are balking? Is there abuse? Harsh words? Personality conflicts? Vendettas? Maybe.

The whole situation is bizarre. I’ve never heard of this many coaches being cut loose in such a short period of time. Most coaches, when they are cut loose are allowed to resign and just go quietly into the night should they choose. At least that’s the way it was in Scarsdale from when I started in 1999 until two Junes ago. Under the current administration, that’s not how Scarsdale chose to do this.

And the coaches are fighting back. In public. It makes the situation very high profile in and out of Scarsdale.

Patrick put it this way last week, saying, “We have over 150 coaches across more than 20 sports that compete across multiple levels, modified, JV and varsity, and in many instances we field multiple teams on a level. Going back to before I got here, which was 19 months ago, there were some high profile sports with some high profile coaching dismissals, all of which followed process, were regrettable, but absolutely necessary. All for different reasons. Each case is unique. Yet we still are employing 144 other coaches.”

Yes, 96 percent of the coaches in Scarsdale are deemed OK for working with your kids. Until they’re not.

Girls basketball coach Mike Blanco has been watching this all unfold and his head is spinning.

“This has become way too contentious,” he said. “We need to get in a room — coaches, parents, administrators — sit down and talk. We look terrible to the outside world. We’re not going to get good coaches in here. We had a couple that we now don’t have. Are there people that are better? I don’t think so.”

There’s a lack of trust and reputations are getting tarnished, he said. There are no protocols for these situations and he’d like to see some in place to protect everyone. He’d like the coaches heard, the parents heard and the administration heard because no one is on the same page right now.

“Let’s get it out in the open so at least we’re in the same ballpark,” he said. “We have parents over in left field, administration out in center field and we’re not even in the game as coaches sometimes.”

I had a long conversation with Pappalardi last week. He’s a guy I’ve known for 14 years since second of three stints at Edgemont. I don’t have the space to fully address the issues he and I talked about right now, but his bottom line — and he will stand by this and take all the criticism — is that 1) he’s doing what he feels is best for the well-being of the student-athletes and 2) he can’t work with people he feels he can’t trust. He just can’t tell you why in specifics, which leaves everything up to the imagination.

Essentially the district is asking for blind trust, something the community isn’t accepting.

“We have to focus on the way we treat kids every day, the way we treat all kids and the way we make them feel part of our program,” Pappalardi said. “This is a school. It’s not a sport academy. It’s an educational institution and sports should be an extension of our education program. If we don’t have that education focus then we might as well not have a sports program at all.”

Many people wonder if there’s going to be anything left by the time the dust settles.

Or better yet, what happens when the next piece of Jenga gets pulled.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

February 16, 2018