Coaches rally around dismissed athletic director

More than 100 Gilroy High School students, coaches, teachers,

People want Gilroy High School’s dismissed athletic director to be reinstated
– and they came out in droves Thursday night to see their message heard loud and clear.
Parents, teachers, students and community members occupied every chair, lined every wall, filled every inch of available space and spilled out the double doors during a Gilroy Unified School Board District meeting at 7810 Arroyo Circle.
People want Gilroy High School’s dismissed athletic director to be reinstated – and they came out in droves Thursday night to see their message heard loud and clear.
Parents, teachers, students and community members occupied every chair, lined every wall, filled every inch of available space and spilled out the double doors during a Gilroy Unified School Board District meeting at 7810 Arroyo Circle.
They came to show their support for Jack Daley, whose ouster this week at the conclusion of a GUSD investigation stemming from an injury DUI accident involving former Gilroy High track and field coach Alvin Harrison hit a huge nerve.
“We found the problem. But firing jack? Because he’s what, the most expendable? Where is your backbone?” said GUSD parent Tracy Hill, addressing the school board. “I bet Jack voted for half of you guys based on your integrity. I don’t know how you can sleep at night.”
After the accident, it was discovered Harrison did not have a valid driver’s license while driving a school-rented van on an athletic field trip in Southern California, according to the California Highway Patrol. No students were with Harrison in the rented vehicle.
A school district investigation revealed Daley rented the vehicle for Harrison to use, but Daley, speaking publicly for the first time Thursday, reiterated to the Dispatch that he had no knowledge of Harrison’s invalid license.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t comment more. But, like I said, that’s not me. I would never do anything to put kids at this school at risk. For 20 years, I’ve given my heart and soul and my energy to the athletes and staff and school.”
On Thursday evening, more than 100 attendees picked up where Daley left off.
As speaker after speaker approached the board, a mosaic of comments too abundant to count pieced together a comprehensive portrait of an athletic director described as “a man of integrity,” “the finest person I’ve ever met,” “an every day hero,” “a model citizen,” “a parent-coach liaison” and “one of the most caring men I know.”
During public comment on the “unpopular, ill-advised move,” repeat requests for Daley’s reinstatement, a formal apology and a change in policy began to pile up.
The crowded turnout was a demonstrative testament to Daley’s far-reaching impact as alumni, community members, staff from other schools and even a sports official from Hollister showed up to voice their two cents.
GHS alumna Brandi Rodriguez, who said she took a study break from finals to speak on Daley’s behalf, said the board could hire someone new who will “just go through the motions,” but it won’t give GHS the “fire” that has right now.
“We can’t just have a scapegoat in this,” she added.
Another community member placed the scenario in a business perspective; saying by the time GUSD finishes “paying for this fiasco, you could have had the last two years paid for a human resources person, and the next five,”
Student-athletes were a powerful presence, a handful sporting shirts reading “Jack, you rock!” or flashing hand-made signs indicating “Team Daley.”
Others, such as Dani Hemeon, repeatedly choked back tears.
Without Daley, she asserted, the athletic department would fall apart.
“I don’t think any of us can imagine our high school experience without him,” she said.
GHS student-athlete Eric Martinez was one of several youth who touched on Daley’s mentoring and guidance beyond sports-related issues.
“Without coach Daley, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” said Martinez.
As several teachers and parents highlighted a kink in policy and hiring protocol, Michelle Nelson, President of the Gilroy Teacher’s Association, queried whose job it is to check references.
“Jack Daley is not responsible for the hiring of anyone,” she said. “There are many people involved in this decision-making.
Prior to concluding Nelson said she has filed a grievance, and is prepared to take it all the way.
Another speaker reiterated this topic, pointing out procedures need to be scrutinized rather than removing someone “who gives so much of himself.”
“It starts from the top,” she said. “We want to see some policy change so we don’t have to go through this again…this will not go away. He is too powerful and too good to let go.”
When public comment came to a close, further dialogue continued outside. Here there was no shortage of opinion, and “reinstatement” was the buzzword of the night.
Tracy Hill’s husband, California Highway Patrol interim commander Dave Hill, observed GUSD “doesn’t have a process.”
“How can you blame someone if there’s no procedure?” asked Hill, whose has own children have gone through GUSD.
“He has always been there for us. He never misses a game,” observed GHS senior Indra Garcia.
Turning and glancing at the crowded parking lot, she noted the diversity of attendees still idling in conversation.
“It’s amazing how many people are here,” she said. “It shows the impact he makes.”
Support from his colleagues
About 30 current and former coaches gathered for two hours Wednesday night at the home of longtime coach and teacher Chuck Ogle to talk about Daley’s firing. Cathy Silva, Cross country and track and field coach, said the topic was clear: how could the coaches help Daley get his job back?
“It was a great showing of how much he is loved. All of us are just distraught over this,” Silva said. “We are standing united on this. We are going to go to the board.
“No one felt that Jack should be held accountable for this. There isn’t anyone who thinks differently. And I think that speaks for itself right there.”
Often holding back tears, Daley carefully, diligently and repeatedly expressed gratitude toward his peers for the continued support.
“I just want to say thank you to people,” Daley said, pausing every couple of words. “Over 20 years, people know who I am. They know that I’ve done whatever I could for the athletes and staff at Gilroy High. This has been my life for 20 years.”
One of the things he’s grateful for is the support, and knowing that he’s made a difference in people’s lives, Daley said.
“That you’ve done something positive and people are willing to stand up for you, come to your defense and rally around you. I’ll never be able to express my gratitude for that.”
Daley did not comment on specifics and wanted to respect certain boundaries, but said he is waiting to hear back from the teacher’s union on the matter.
“I’m waiting on some advice,” he said. “I’m not sure what avenues are there, but we are pursuing.”
GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores said a search for Daley’s replacement will begin next week. She declined to discuss whether the decision to remove Daley from his athletic director post had any connection to Harrison’s arrest, citing the matter as a personnel issue.
“A number of steps will be taken internally,” Flores said. “There will be changes in our procedures within the district.”
Changes, including the reinstatement of Daley, are for what coaches and parents are seeking.
Letters and comments have been pouring in since the news broke on the Dispatch website.
“From what we hear, this is wrong,” GHS field hockey coach Adam Gemar said. “I don’t have the answers and I don’t know all the details. But it seems like he is a scapegoat of some sort. If there was a mistake, I don’t think it should’ve led to a firing, but maybe changes in procedure. After years and years of service, it doesn’t seem right.”
“If there is any way I can fight for Jack, I would,” said GHS girls golf coach Trudi Souza. “Jack has done so much for this community. It’s just ridiculous. Everything he did was in the best interest of the kids.”
Souza said she felt that Daley fell victim to a faulty system.
“The process in which we hire coaches and keep track of them failed,” Souza said. “I just don’t understand how Jack is responsible for (Harrison’s) mistake. There is no reason to blame him.”
GHS Principal Marco Sanchez said Daley has been moved into a super-substitute position and will finish the year in that capacity. Sanchez added that options for an on-campus position for next year are being explored.
“I am very sad. This has been a trying few weeks,” Sanchez said. “I wish there was a better outcome. There will be a place for him here on campus.
“It’s going to be hard to imagine GHS athletics without coach Daley,” Sanchez added. “He is a first-class, first-rate guy and I have respect for him. He has done a lot for GHS athletics.”
Daley first came to GHS in 1988 as a substitute teacher and took over as athletic director in 2000. He was named the Central Coast Section’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2007.
“Bottom line is, we don’t know the whole story, but we want to see what we can do to be supportive of Jack and at the same time be respectful to the district,” Ogle said. “I know Jack. He is a noble man. Jack is a busy man. Could things have slipped though? Sure. But I cannot believe in my heart that he knowingly gave a vehicle to someone (without a valid driver’s license.)”
GHS girls soccer coach Jose Hernandez said Daley’s dismissal appeared to be “Politics 101.”
“I don’t understand why we aren’t focusing on procedure and not just on one person,” he said. “It seems to be more about politics than safety. It shows the culture of what have you done for me lately.
“Jack is one of the more respected athletic directors in the area,” Hernandez continued. “If it comes out that he made a mistake, I’d would be like, ‘OK, you made a mistake. We all do.’ He has done enough good things. He is a community man. He has always modeled his leadership.”
Reporters Josh Weaver and Blair Tellers contributed to this story.

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