Medfield Superintendent of Schools Bob Maguire made one thing clear to residents in attendance at Monday’s School Committee meeting to protest the administration’s decision not to renew Bob Aronson’s contract to coach the boys’ lacrosse team in 2012 – it is time to move on.
“I cannot allow this matter to serve as a distraction anymore,” Maguire said. “It’s time to turn our focus to where it belongs – to making sure our young men and women excel in the classroom and on the playing fields.”
In a prepared statement, Maguire told the crowd of nearly 100 in attendance that the decision made regarding Aronson’s status with the boys’ lacrosse team was “final.”
“The decision to select new head coaches for the lacrosse team rests with me and the administrators at the high school,” Maguire said. “It is a decision, however, that was not made hastily or in isolation. Principal Robert Parga and Athletic Director Jon Kirby conducted a thorough review of the matter to gather all the facts. They have given this matter a great deal of thought, particularly knowing that any decision not to rehire coach Aronson would be unpopular with some in our community.
“I subsequently reviewed all of the issues that were involved in this. Based on the facts before us, we agreed that change in leadership is in the best interest of the lacrosse program and all student athletes. That decision is final.”
In light of the different positions the community has taken on this matter, the high school cafeteria was a room divided in opinion Monday as residents gathered to protest the administration’s decision regarding Aronson while members of the Medfield Teachers’ Association showed support of its administration.
The meeting was moved to the high school’s cafeteria from the TV production classroom to appropriately accommodate the crowd.
Representing one side of the matter was Maguire, who remained consistent in supporting the "difficult decision” made by the administration. In return, Maguire received strong support from teachers and faculty from around the district in attendance.
Joanne Schmidt, president of the Medfield Teachers’ Association and high school librarian for 12 years, said when the association appears in mass before the school committee, it’s usually because there’s a problem or disagreement between teachers and the administration.
That wasn’t the case Monday.
“We are here to support our administrators and their right to make all personnel decisions,” Schmidt said. “They have the right to hire, retain and terminate employees without pressure from any outside organization. We support the personnel decision-making process as it currently exists and have to speak against any kind of outside pressure impacting those decisions. We see it as potentially precedent setting and dangerous to all of us in the school community.
“Rather than speak about any one decision, we are here supporting the process in general. We value the professionals who are trained and managing school buildings and who care about kids are making the decisions about personnel. Our system, successful and strong for so many years, owes its strength to our administrators making good personnel decisions and making strong and successful schools.”
Schmidt’s statement received standing applause from teachers and faculty – an endorsement of unified support for the administration and its personnel decisions.
On the other side of the room Monday were parents, former and current Medfield lacrosse players and residents in support of Aronson.
As unified as the association was with its administration, these residents were in support of the longtime boys’ lacrosse coach. Residents attended Monday’s meeting to publicly protest the administration’s decision and further voice their concerns for what they believe to be an injustice to Aronson and hundreds of kids in the Medfield lacrosse community.
Medfield resident Robert Treiber, whose son Robert is on the MHS lacrosse team, stood before the school committee on Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 to voice his concern over Aronson’s departure and request the administration reconsider its decision and ultimately reinstate Aronson as coach of the boys’ lacrosse program.
On Monday, Treiber again stood before the school committee, but this time as , representing hundreds of Aronson supporters, including MHS alumni, parents, current players and community members.
Treiber addressed the school committee on behalf of ORCA along with three of its members – Colin Schriver, Conor and John Roddy.
“I have come to the school committee twice before in the hopes that you will be reasonable people and motivated by the concern of your constituents and get involved,” Treiber said. … “[Now] we are all here to protest your refusal to hear a loud and clear voice by the very people you’ve sworn to represent. We are here because we would like you to work with the administration, within the limits of the law, to achieve with respect to the children, a more optimal solution, which includes coach Aronson in our lacrosse program.”
Treiber’s statement garnered standing applause from Aronson supporters as Medfield Youth Lacrosse players held signs that read “Bring Coach Aronson Back.”
Schriver, MHS Class of 2001, spoke on behalf of MHS alumni and said Aronson’s influence in a player’s life always goes beyond the playing field.
“He made me a better man with qualities like integrity, dedication, hard work, commitment to your team,” said Schriver. “In the real world, you don’t get handed a trophy or a promotion because you feel entitled to it. You work hard every single day and you earn it. He’s the only coach that I’ve had in my entire life that expected me to be a better person and cared about me enough to help me be better.”
Schriver said after reviewing the video recordings of the past two school committee meetings, he is concerned by the school committee and superintendent’s position on this issue and said not bringing back Aronson would be a disservice to generations of young men.
“I’m pretty concerned with the injustice of the system and the fact that with a turnout of over 40 people [at the Feb. 13 meeting] and now close to 100 [Monday], that the constituents’ cause was basically shut down,” Schriver said. “It was actually counter-acted. Where’s the people that’s supposed to represent us? What this does is create mistrust in the system. That creates a feeling of gross injustice.”
Conor Roddy, a co-captain of the 2012 Medfield lacrosse team, similar to Schriver, said his relationship with Aronson goes beyond the field and his lacrosse coach for the past three seasons helped him get accepted at Williams College, where he is expected to play lacrosse.
“There hasn’t been a teacher, guidance counselor or any other coach in my experience that has expressed as much personal interest in me or my well-being than coach Aronson,” Roddy said.
Conor’s father, John, read excerpts of letters from current and former players, praising Aronson for his passion on the lacrosse field and influence and inspiration off it. After sharing player testimonials on the positive impact Aronson has had on their lives in both lacrosse and life, John Roddy asked the school committee a rhetorical question?
“Why did we get rid of this guy in the first place?” John Roddy asked of Aronson. “Why are you so strongly opposed to listening to the constituency that has come out in mass … why is there no possibility for compromise?”
Treiber concluded ORCA’s protest with one request.
“I am asking you now to work within the limits of the law and to get involved,” said Treiber. “Please, step back and ask yourself whether or not all of these people, here in protest, can be that wrong about what is best for our children and our community. We hope you have heard our protest and our pleas to reopen this matter. We ask that you seek a compromise that would allow coach Aronson back on the field and to be back for the betterment of the kids.”
At the conclusion of public participation, Medfield School Committee member Tim Bonfatti asked this be the final discussion on the matter with the school committee.
“Further discussion on this decision [with Aronson] isn’t going to affect our approach to [evaluating Maguire],” Bonfatti said. “I would ask that we conclude discussion of this matter because as the superintendent said it has been decided and does no further good to continue discussion.”
Despite Maguire stressing the decision made on Aronson is final, Treiber said he is committed to seeing ORCA’s goal through and the 12-year Medfield lacrosse coach reinstated.
““I have the responsibility to represent the stated goal that it is better serving to the children with coach Aronson on the sidelines,” said Treiber. “I am committed to lead this charge for them and they trust me to do so.”
Treiber pointed out if all else fails in ORCA’s attempt to reinstate Aronson, he will campaign for a seat on the school committee.
“If you don’t [reconsider the administration’s decision], by these same laws, you would leave me no other option than to pursue a seat on the school committee to bring the necessary accountability, creativity and responsiveness to the public,” Treiber said. “I’m pretty sure by now, no one wants to see me up there on the school committee. So please, let’s strive for creativity and compromise.”