Track Coach Hopes to Discuss Firing with School Officials
Although he's making no predictions for the outcome, varsity track coach Tom Davis said he will continue to try to speak with officials after being fired last week.
Westwood High School's varsity boys track coach Tom Davis said Thursday that, after being fired last week due to his athletes running shirtless during practice, he's hoping to eventually hold a meeting with school administrators to discuss the situation.
When asked if he would have done anything differently, Davis responded, "The reality is, I strongly disagree with what they were trying to enforce, and strongly disagree with the way they went about enforcing it. Am I supposed to be a puppet and bow down to the demands? A lot of people would say yes, but I disagree."
Davis was fired last Friday after Westwood Athletic Director Karl Fogel approached one of the track team's athletes for running without a shirt on during practice, an issue Davis said had been raised several times during the preceding weeks.
"A few weeks ago, the school expressed to me that a few girls on the track team were uncomfortable that some of the boys were running shirtless," Davis said. "A week later, (Fogel) confronted another student for having a shirt off after coming back from a run. After that confrontation, I emailed (Fogel), saying we need to discuss the issue."
By that point, Davis said he was unaware that an actual rule was in place that restricted teammates from running with their shirts off. Fogel related to him that it had been discussed and decided that the players were not allowed to run shirtless.
"They just came up with that rule on the spot," Davis said. "It was never professionally expressed to me ever, period. I had tried three previous times to meet with the administration, and all my requests were ignored."
Another incident was reported to Fogel by High School Principal Emily Parks, Davis said, after which Fogel warned Davis to enforce the policy. Davis said he then told his team that they could risk being kicked off if they continued to run shirtless.
Then came last Friday, when Fogel and Davis engaged in a heated discussion after Davis intervened when Fogel had approached a teammate about running shirtless, Davis said. That incident resulted in Davis's firing and Fogel demanding that he leave the property.
Davis said he then went to grab his equipment and then went on a cool-down run with his team. When he returned, he was approached by Assistant Principal Sean Bevan and Superintendent John Antonucci, who said they were there to escort him out, according to Davis.
Antonucci said Thursday that he couldn't address the matter in detail, but said Davis's firing wasn't a result of one particular incident.
"While I cannot discuss the specifics of a confidential personnel matter, I can assure that Friday's decision to relieve Mr. Davis of his duties was not the result of a single incident, but rather the regrettable outcome of an ongoing discussion," Antonucci said in a statement. "It is my responsibility to ensure that our employees implement programs in a way that is consistent with the overall mission of the Westwood Public Schools."
Fogel said Thursday that he wasn't at liberty to comment on the situation.
"I can't speak about it," he said. "It's a personnel matter, and there's confidentiality involved."
One Westwood High School parent said Thursday that Fogel is an asset for the Westwood Athletic Department, and brings stength to the program.
"He's very much involved and he's always there, and he goes the extra mile for the town and for the school," said Frank Barounis, whose children have been playing varsity sports in Westwood for nearly five years. "He's a big positive for the department."
Davis led the track team to 5-0 before his firing last week; they sustained their first loss of the spring season on Monday. During the winter season, the boys' 4 X 800 relay team posted a time of 7:57.59 during the All-States to break a meet record of 8:01.13 set by Newton North High School in 1998.
Assistant Coach Joe Masica has taken over coaching the team for the remainder of the season.