Two weeks after being fired from his position as North Andover High School varsity football coach, it has been confirmed that John Rafferty is back at the high school.
Principal Carla Scuzzarella made the announcement to her students late Thursday morning. Before doing so, she sat down for an interview to discuss the decision.
"You make decisions all the time about what's a fit and what's not a fit, and after listening to my students, I have to put my money where my mouth is," Scuzzarella said.
After two weeks of public outcry and a rising movement of support, there are reports that recently-fired North Andover High School Varsity Football Coach John Rafferty has been offered his job back.
Rafferty was fired in late January without explanation from school officials. Rafferty reportedly told The Eagle-Tribune that it was because he disciplined two students without following protocol.
A major factor in the decision to hire Rafferty back was the voice of the players, past and present, who have emailed Scuzzarella in support of the coach and have spoken publicly in protest of the firing.
A massive movement of support for Rafferty started immediately afterward, and on Monday during the School Committee meeting the high school library was packed full of players, former players and other members of the community -- roughly about 200 people -- voicing support for him and outrage at school officials.
"My football players conducted themselves in a manner that showed not just the values they get from their families, but also the values learned from their coach," Scuzzarella said. "When you see kids five, six, seven years out from high school, and they're talking about impact, you say 'OK I need to think about this again."
The public outcry may or may not subside over the initial firing of Coach Rafferty, and many questions are likely to remain.
"I'm willing to take the heat for that," Scuzzarella said. "It's my job."
There have been no details released by school officials as to why Rafferty was fired in the first place.
"No, and there aren't going to be," Scuzzarella said, stressing that she doesn't discuss personnel matters publicly. She said there was no concern about Rafferty with the students and he had done nothing inappropriate.
Scuzzarella also addressed speculation that she and Athletics Director Jon Longley were trying to fill the coach spot with someone from Beverly, where she was once a principal.
"People have said a lot of nasty things out there and made a lot of references," she said. "I don't even live in Beverly."
As for Longley, Scuzzarella said he will be staying on as athletics director and that she believes he and Rafferty can work out their differences as adults.
The important message to students, Scuzzarella added, was that the adults are listening to them.
"When they put themselves out there, they can make a difference," she said. "That's not just about football."