Chris Jewett stood before the Manhattan Beach school board surrounded by a standing-room-only crowd and asked for his job back.
Jewett was fired from his position as the Mira Costa High School boys lacrosse head coach in December after a small group of parents filed complaints against him, alleging he made disparaging comments to players, created a "pay-to-play scheme" and gave preferential treatment.
At the board meeting last week, Mira Costa teacher and coach Andy Caine also spoke on behalf of varsity baseball head coach Cassidy Olson, who was penalized in December after 37 parents filed anonymous complaints against his coaching, alleging abuse and bullying. The parents demanded he be terminated from the post he's held since 2010.
Since then, parents and students have rallied behind the two coaches, with many outraged at how the situations were handled by the district.
"The message you send to my kids and this community is that someone like me can work really hard and do a lot of good for the community ... but if a group of people with a lot of money doesn't like you or has a personal vendetta against you, they can get an attorney, threaten the school district and get you fired," Jewett said.
Jewett, who would have entered his third season as head coach, told the board he had the support of 98 percent of the lacrosse parents and players, and the investigation into his behavior showed only that he used "the occasional bad language.
"This group of parents came after me in the fall and you turned them away," he said. "They came back in December, and they threatened to sue me, and you fired me."
Jewett said he and his attorney are considering all of his options.
The school district hired Andrew Casimir, a first-team All-American defenseman at Dowling College in 2011, as the new lacrosse coach late last month.
School board members said they would not take action on his request for reinstatement.
"The board has not directed me to reconsider the nonrehire of Chris Jewett," Superintendent Mike Matthews said. "We are moving forward with the season."
Baseball coach Olson said last month he worried for the future of athletics in town.
"I would hate to see Manhattan Beach become a community where the players whose parents have lawyers automatically play. It's not fair to the hard-working kids who deserve to play and make the team."
Interim athletic director and longtime coach Don Morrow had interviewed all of the baseball team members late last year, after the complaints were filed, to investigate allegations that Olson had created an environment of fear, bullying and danger, since he often tore up doctor's notes and made the boys play anyway.
Last month, Morrow said no evidence was uncovered during his investigation to back up the parents' claims, and he recommended the district reinstate Olson as head coach immediately.
Instead, the district limited Olson's time at practices and will keep him from 12 of the team's 30 games this season.
The parents who lodged complaints against Olson through attorney Joe Di Monda say justice has not been served.
Brian Clebowicz, the father of a sophomore JV player, told the board he and the other 36 parents who cited more than 40 specific allegations feel their children have been jeopardized by the "capricious, irresponsible and threatening behavior" of Olson. Even after his suspension for half the season, Olson called a meeting of parents and players in January, in which he "railed against" parents who lodged complaints, Clebowicz said.
"This is an administrative problem with a misbehaving, insubordinate employee in a stipended position," he said. "He's in direct defiance of his suspension. This is cause for dismissal in accordance with the Education Code."
Caine, the JV baseball coach, said he was "deeply saddened" he had to attend the board meeting to address such complaints.
"The reason for Olson's firing changes with the wind," he said. "The bottom line is there is no evidence of any cause for his dismissal.
Olson and Di Monda have both asked to see a copy of the investigation report into Olson's behavior, but the school district has not released it. Jewett received the report detailing the investigation into his coaching last month.
Matthews said he will bring a revised policy on coaching to the March 6 board meeting. It would prohibit coaches from being paid to coach at MBUSD while also being paid to coach the same students in a club or private environment, he said. It would go into effect July 1.
"It would eliminate perceived or real conflict-of-interest problems that exist when a coach is both a high school coach and a club coach," he said. "MBUSD would be one of the first districts to do this, and I believe it will be a very positive step."
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