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Board's decision stands regarding veteran Harwood track and field coach

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12/14/2006

By Erin Post

After considering a petition that asked for the reinstatement of track and field coach John Kerrigan, the Harwood Union school board has decided to let their initial decision stand.

"There was no motion to reconsider," said school board chair Scott Mackey regarding the move last spring to terminate the coach's contract for the sport.

At their December 6 meeting, the board met in executive session to discuss the petition, signed by over 200 parents and community members, asking for Kerrigan to be reinstated.

But after talking about the situation, Mackey said board members decided they haven't seen any new information to change their minds.

"I think the board felt like the decision we made originally was the right one," he said.

The coach's contract was terminated in June, after the board learned he improperly substituted athletes at a track meet by attempting to enter some runners into a race under the names of student-athletes who were no longer competing.

After learning of the infraction, the school board dismissed Kerrigan as coach for all three sports he was responsible for: cross country, Nordic skiing, and track and field. They later reversed that decision and reinstated him as coach for cross country and Nordic skiing.

Kerrigan issued a public apology at a school board meeting in June, stating that "there is no excuse for putting Harwood students in a position of lying about who they are in order to compete," according to published reports. He also offered his resignation as track and field coach.

Harwood principal Duane Pierson, who was present for the December 6 executive session, said it was ultimately the board's decision to consider all of the evidence and the situation at hand.

"They came out [of the executive session] and that's how they decided to stand," he said. Pierson did not become Harwood's principal until July, after the initial board decision was made. 

In November, area residents turned out at a board meeting to present the petition and to lobby the board to reconsider their decision. Attendees cited Kerrigan's long-standing commitment to the school and to the students. Some parents offered personal stories about how Kerrigan had made a difference for their children.

Mackey called it a "tough decision" when you are dealing with "a coach as good as John Kerrigan," but said the board stands by its action.

He said that Kerrigan can reapply for the track and field coaching position after this spring's season, and he maintains his positions as coach for the other two sports.

Pierson said the school has advertised for a track and field coach and is reviewing applicants for the job.

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