Firing of Westwood Track Coach Was Justified, Investigation Finds
In addition to the School Committee's decision, Athletic Director Karl Fogel plans to retire.
After investigating the firing of Westwood High School boys' track coach Tom Davis this past spring, the Westwood School Committee has announced that it stands by the move.
In a recent statement, Westwood School Superintendent John Ancontucci said that the move to dismiss Davis was justified, and that Davis's claims that Athletic Director Karl Fogel made physical contact with him by bumping him in the chest was found not to be the case.
"We have had an independent professional conduct an investigation of the facts surrounding that events, and his conclusion is that there was no such contact," Antonucci said. "I accept that conclusion."
Holyoke-based attorney Edward R. Mitnick conducted the investigation, Antonucci said, one that began in April, when Davis was fired after one of his athletes was spotted running shirtless during practice.
Fogel, who confronted the coach about the player, fired Davis after the two engaged in an heated argument; the incident came after several similar incidents involving Davis's athletes allegedly having run shirtless. (Attempts to contact Davis and Fogel for comment were made on Tuesday, but were not successful at the time of this writing.)
Later in May, the Westwood School Committee announced that it would investigate the firing, and during the process Fogel was placed on administrative leave.
The firing of Davis spawned a letter to Westwood Patch from Westwood resident Stephen Fitzsimmons, Jr., and prompted other residents to voice concerns at the School Commitee's May meeting.
And at last week's School Committee meeting, Antonucci made his announcement that the investigation had been completed.
"The decision to dismiss the coach was the right one, and it is final," Antonucci said in his statement. "It was not based primarily on a disagreement over whether students on the boys track team should wear shirts when running. It was based primarily on what we believe was the coach's ongoing failure to interact with students, his colleagues, and his supervisors in an appropriately professional and respectful way."
Meanwhile, Fogel has informed the Westwood School administration that he plans to retire, Antonucci said in the statement.
"Our Athletic Director has worked tirelessly and done an enormous amount of good for the students in our schools, and he shares my regret in the way the decision was communicated to the coach," he said. "We thank him for his many contributions and wish him the very best going forward."
He added, "Our school's job is not to prepare runners, or even mathematicians or artists or any other specific occupation. Our school's mission is to prepare individuals to be whole people who are as successful as possible in all the varied aspects of their lives . . . we take that very seriously, and we will continue to address whatever issues may arise from time to time that tend to interfere with our carrying out that mission for the students and families of Westwood."