The people who are intent on seeing Jon Rich reinstated as the Londonderry High School varsity football coach keep making it plain that they aren’t willing to take “no” for an answer from school superintendent Nate Greenberg or the school board.
After having representatives address the school board and Greenberg directly at each of the last two board meetings, on Jan. 7 and 30 – but being told that their efforts would not alter the decision both times – a youthful segment of the sizable group of Rich supporters is leading the next volley and keeping the issue alive.
The LHS Athletic Leadership Council – which includes some of the top student/athletes at the school – has created a petition and collected more than 300 signatures on it stating, “Jon Rich should not be fired as varsity football head coach at Londonderry High School.”
Penned by senior council member and LHS all-state field hockey standout Tianna Federico – whose mom, Laura, is the Londonderry High varsity field hockey coach – the document states that Rich “should not be fired as the head varsity football coach due to the fact that he is supportive and puts his players ahead of himself. The well-being of the students at LHS should always be a top priority, and by firing Jon Rich that well-being will not be a priority any longer.”
Among the 300 signers of the petition are former and current LHS student/athletes and parents. Rich and his supporters have also received letters of support from New Hampshire high school football luminaries like Pinkerton Academy coach Brian O’Reilly and Exeter High School’s Bill Ball, whose school’s stadium is named after him.
The next Londonderry school board meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 18, and the petition may be placed in the hands of the school board and Greenberg that night.
The LHS football job has been posted and the application process has begun, with Rich reapplying for the job he held for six years.
At the center of the upset generated by the Rich non-renewal as the Londonderry varsity grid coach is the belief within the group that supports him that his removal was generated by the behind-the-scenes actions of at least one school board member, and had everything to do with the Rich-led LHS grid teams not winning enough games.
In the wake of finding out about his non-renewal, Rich stated to the Londonderry Times and at least one other newspaper that he thought his removal from the job was generated by actions of the school board. But mere hours before the Londonderry Times went to press with that initial story, Rich sought out this reporter and said he had subsequently met with Greenberg, who was taking “full responsibility” for Rich’s removal.
Rich and his wife are both employed as teachers at LHS, and the superintendent has said in public that Jon Rich remains a physical education teacher in the highest possible standing at Londonderry High. But then come the questions about why Rich was removed from his coaching position, which Greenberg states he simply cannot answer because they are a personnel issue.
Contacted about her group’s petition, Tianna Federico stated, “As the Athletic Leadership Council, our job is to help athletes at the high school have their own voice. When everything came out about Mr. Rich not being hired back, we quickly learned the reality of the situation. We saw the frustration of the football players and knew that it was our job to help them. We began talking to a lot of them and told them we would help them in any way they needed.”
When the idea of a petition came up, Federico took it upon herself to write it.
“We had no idea that the petition would become so large,” she said. “We truly just intended to get students to sign it. Although Mr. Greenberg and the school board have expressed that Mr. Rich will not get his job back and the decision is final, a lot of people are frustrated. The petition is not to target anyone. It is to express the loving support that Mr. Rich has. People, especially students, desperately want to be heard, and we felt that a petition was the best way to get their voices across.”
Jon Rich’s wife, Crystal, is an English teacher at LHS, and Federico wanted it understood that Mrs. Rich – who serves as the staff advisor to the Student Leadership Council – had no prior knowledge of the existence of the petition in support of her husband.
“We did this without the advisory of Crystal Rich. We purposely did not involve her in case of controversy,” said Federico.