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February 22. 2014 9:27PM

LHS students petition board to reconsider football coach's contract

LONDONDERRY - Nearly two months after school officials decided not to renew the contract of Londonderry High School football coach Jon Rich, a growing group of students continues to speak out on the matter.

During Thursday night's school board meeting, two students brought forward a petition urging the board to reconsider. Student Tianna Federico, who plays field hockey at the high school, said Rich is "an important part of Londonderry Lancer Nation."

As of Thursday, the petition had almost 580 signatures. Federico said some of those signatures came from friends and previous students from as far away as Washington state and Florida.

"We understand a decision has already been made," Federico told the board. "But we're asking you, from the bottom of our hearts, to just take a look at this."

"Taking Coach Rich's job away is taking away from the students," she added.

Fellow LHS athlete Joseph McGrath said he first met Rich several years ago when he helped broadcast football games.

"He's just a great guy who really deserves another chance," McGrath told the board. "So we're asking you to revisit your decision."

McGrath said if the board decides to revisit that decision and comes to the same conclusion, he would like to know why.

"We were never told the reason this happened in the first place," he said. "So we'd like to at least hear a reason."

Audience members, including district students and parents, applauded McGrath's sentiment.

"I understand this has been difficult for you," board chairman Nancy Hendricks replied. "As a board, we understand it's pretty tough when something like this happens with someone in the community who means so much to you. We appreciate this effort."

However, Hendricks declined to comment on whether any further action would be taken, noting that "personnel issues" couldn't be detailed in public forums due to employee privacy laws.

But parent Gary Richards said he was angry about events of the past several months.

The teaching contract for Rich, a longtime health and physical education teacher who had also been serving as head varsity football coach for the past several years, wasn't affected by the board's decision in late December, and school officials said he remains in good professional standing.

Richards told the board Thursday night that he emailed them questions on the matter on multiple occasions over the past several weeks, but has so far received no response.

Board member Steve Young encouraged concerned parties to call board members directly.

"I myself have received no less than two dozen calls on this," Young said. "Some of them have shown support over the decision and some of them haven't.

"But if you have an issue with one of us, you should really be having a conversation with that person," he added, noting the home telephone numbers of all school board members are listed on the district's website.

There's no word yet on whether the students' petition would change minds when it comes to Rich, though board members agreed their work was admirable.

"For students, this is an incredible and extremely impressive achievement," Young said.

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