Some supporters of non-renewed Londonderry High School football coach Jon Rich refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer from school superintendent Nate Greenberg and the school board, and they were back in front of that body and Greenberg for a second time Thursday night, Jan. 30. But nothing changed.
The supporters pleaded their case respectfully for the reinstatement of Rich to the position he has referred to as his “dream job.”
The group of Rich supporters includes the majority of his former players, all of his former assistant coaches, and many people within the community. But where several dozen people attended the Jan. 7 school board meeting for an emotional discussion with the board – which ended with several Londonderry policemen in the room just in case tempers bubbled over – last week’s contingent was smaller and less confrontational.
The number of Rich supporters at last week’s meeting neared a dozen and included his mother and father, both of whom are longtime Londonderry residents.
Designated speakers Ken Sharkey and Chris Cole – both of whom are former Londonderry Wildcats’ youth football coaches and directors whose sons played for Rich at LHS – made it plain they still don’t agree with Greenberg’s and the board’s handling of the non-renewal – or that it happened at all.
Sharkey cited more than 60 player evaluations in support of Rich, five years’ worth of positive coaching evaluations by LHS athletic director Howard Sobolov – who also served as an assistant under Rich this past fall – and votes for renewing the coach from both Sobolov and LHS principal Jason Parent as reasons why Rich should be back for a seventh season this autumn.
Greenberg took full responsibility for non-renewing the coach but did not give reasons why, stating he can’t legally give reasons as it’s a personnel decision.
Sharkey and Cole were held closely to the 15-minute speaking limit this time around, after the Jan. 7 discussion with the board and Greenberg lasted nearly an hour.
Sharkey had complimentary letters of support in hand last week from Pinkerton Academy’s longtime football coach, Brian O’Reilly, and other New Hampshire grid coaches – including Exeter’s Bill Ball and Manchester Central’s Ryan Ray – but didn’t get the chance to present them.
At the heart of the upset generated by the Rich non-renewal is the widely-held belief within the group that supports the coach that his removal was generated by behind-the-scenes actions of at least one school board member, and had everything to do with the LHS grid teams not winning enough games.
In the wake of finding out about his non-renewal, Rich told the Londonderry Times that he thought his removal was generated by the school board. He changed that a few days later to say he had subsequently met with Greenberg, who took 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 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 coaching, which Greenberg states he cannot answer.
In the hallway outside the meeting room after presenting to the school board last week, Sharkey and Cole said they addressed the board with an eye to trying to make the non-renewal process more transparent. But their chief goal remained unchanged from the Jan. 7 meeting.
“Our ultimate hope tonight was to get Jon back as coach, and it still is,” said Sharkey.
Rich has said he will reapply for the LHS varsity football job in the coming weeks, and his supporters are left wondering aloud why anyone would want to take over the job with the upset surrounding Rich’s non-renewal.
“If you’re a good young coach, an up-and-coming coach, why would you want to apply for this job when you see all of this stuff happening here? I think the answer is that you wouldn’t,” said Cole.