In almost 33 years of working in this district (19 years as a teacher and 14 years as an administrator), I can recall sending a letter to the newspaper only three to four times. Generally, I understand and accept that everyone is entitled to their opinion and perspective, and whether I disagree or not, I value their point of view. Well not this time! When an individual intentionally omits facts and truths in an effort to malign another’s character and integrity, that’s just wrong! Thus is the case of Mr. Kerrigan and this is a response to his letter published in The Valley Reporter on October 17, titled “More Harwood hypocrisy.” Let’s set the record straight.

First and foremost, Mr. Kerrigan was correct in stating in his letter that team photographs were scheduled during an important religious day, Yom Kippur. He was also correct in stating that one of his runners and her parents were equally upset that she would be missing her senior photo for the yearbook. Finally, he was again correct in stating that the athletic director rescheduled the team photograph at a meet on Saturday, October 12, taking the pictures himself. That is about the end of his truths. What Mr. Kerrigan intentionally omitted:

Upon receiving a communication from a parent regarding this matter, I apologized and responded that I was unaware that the team photographs had been scheduled at this time. This was not a decision the school administration made. I assured the parent I would immediately follow up on this situation. Mr. Kerrigan received the same communication from both the parent and me. I immediately sent a communication to our athletic director informing him about the concern and stating we will need to make a plan to retake the team picture. Our athletic director felt terrible for making the error in scheduling the team photos on October 9. He apologized and communicated to Mr. Kerrigan a plan to retake the pictures on Saturday, October 12, at the upcoming meet. Our athletic director on two occasions talked with Mr. Kerrigan, apologized, owning his mistake and assuring it would never happen again. So I am thinking, while it was an error that should not have occurred, this had been resolved. So why would Mr. Kerrigan, knowing it was not the administration’s error, as the athletic director took responsibility for it, blamed the HU administration in such a public and demeaning manner?

Additionally, Mr. Kerrigan intentionally misrepresented the truth about his knowledge of the team pictures scheduled on October 9. He stated in his letter, “I was only given a 24-hour notice that team photos were to be taken. Had I been aware of the conflict I would have asked the Harwood administration to reschedule.” This was not true. On October 2 at 11:07 a.m., the athletic director communicated to all of the high school and middle school cross-country that picture day would be October 9. Our athletic director set up a schedule for the pictures to be taken and reminded coaches to tell their teams to bring their uniforms for the picture. Mr. Kerrigan forwarded this email to his entire team list on October 2 at 11:12 a.m., and told them to remember their uniforms. One week prior to the team photos being taken. Mr. Kerrigan was well aware of this conflict. Also, in a parent communication sent on October 10, Mr. Kerrigan wrote: “When your daughter told me that she would be missing school for Yom Kippur (last Wednesday) I was not aware that team photos would be taken that day. I was not aware that photos would be taken this Wednesday. I heard it from the students on Monday. There was never any information sent directly to coaches!” Again, not true Mr. Kerrigan. I ask you, Mr. Kerrigan, why on October 2, once you received the message from your athletic director, aware of this conflict, were you not sensitive to this error? Why did you not bring it to your athletic director’s attention? The conflict would have been resolved immediately. It appears you were the one insensitive and thoughtless, not the administration!

In his letter, Mr. Kerrigan also mentions that he learned early on that one needs to give respect to get respect. For many of you reading this letter, you are aware that this is not the first time Mr. Kerrigan has chosen to disrespect me and this administration, along with past administrators, athletic directors, colleagues and fellow coaches. Mr. Kerrigan upholds high expectations of honesty and integrity and compassion of those around him; it is unfortunate he does not uphold these same expectations for himself. Typically, individuals with a moral compass and sense of character, when they find themselves in this type of situation, would make a phone call, send an email or stop in for a face-to-face conversation. It may not always end in an amicable solution, but it is always a respectful process. There is never an intention to disrespect members of our community and when an error has been made, we have been responsive in our apology and our effort to make it right. Mr. Kerrigan, I wonder, why did you send the letter and demean and slander this administration when you were well aware that the situation was resolved and it was not the error of the administration?

To insinuate that I am a thoughtless and insensitive administrator that disrespects the needs of the community is very disappointing, but to then connect that to a need to obtain community support for a Harwood bond is despicable. Yes, to pass a bond vote we will need luck and a tremendous effort, along with our taxpayers’ commitment to education. I believe in our taxpayers as they have demonstrated their commitment to education year after year, passing all school budgets and when needed, supporting a bond for our buildings and facilities. I would never insult our taxpayers or underestimate them.

Mr. Kerrigan, I am so disappointed in your choice of action but not surprised based on your previous behavior.

 Atwood is Harwood Union Middle and High School principal.