Weston Shows Support For Embattled Basketball Coach

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Weston High School's Charlie DiPasquale, a senior co-captain on the boys basketball team, speaks in support of former coach Mike Hvizdo at Monday's Board of Education meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Weston superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer, left, and school board president Philip Schaefer confer before Monday's meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Weston basketball players listen to a speaker at Monday's Board of Education meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Supporters of former Weston High boys basketball coach Mike Hvizdo jam the library at Weston Middle School for Monday's Board of Education meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Weston superintendent Colleen Palmer listens during Monday's meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Weston resident Don Chase, a longtime figure in the town's basketball community, addresses the Board of Education. Photo Credit: Tom Renner

WESTON, Conn. – Supporters of former Weston High boys basketball coach Mike Hvizdo called for his reinstatement and lambasted school superintendent Colleen Palmer during an hourlong session of public comment at Monday’s Board of Education meeting at Weston Middle School.

Hvizdo told the team he resigned for “personal reasons” during a meeting Feb. 7. He was part of a nine-minute movie released more than a decade ago that Palmer and the Weston administration believed compromised his ability as a basketball coach. The movie was an adult "comedy that while racy in nature, did not include any nudity."

Hvizdo has since reconsidered his “verbal resignation,” Palmer said Monday. He did not attend the meeting.

Parents, players and members of the community were unanimous in their support of Hvizdo, who has been the coach for two years. Many cited his relationship with the team. Most also believe he was treated unfairly by Palmer, Weston High principal Lisa Wolak, human resources director Lewis Brey and athletic director Mark Berkowitz.

“The decision to ruin his life and traumatize the players was made within 12 hours based on a 12-year-old film,’’ Weston resident Kay Spencer said in support of Hvizdo. “It was based on the personal reaction of the administration to a college film project. There was no input from any one, no investigation, no query -- just a disgruntled parent who sent in the email to incite the administration into panic mode. The lack of due process turned the administration into the duped tools of destruction at the behest of a known troublemaker.”

Matt Gurman, one of the many players who attended the meeting, said the team still respects Hvizdo. “He is a much better role model than any one at the sitting at the table right now,'' Gurman said.

Team captain Charlie DiPasquale, who also addressed the board, said afterward the team has tried to fight through the distraction. Under interim coach Jamaal Gibbs, Weston lost in the first-round of the South-West Conference tournament Saturday. It begins sate tournament play next week.

“I thought it was good that we all came and showed that we value him as a coach, and that we want him to help Weston basketball become successful,'' DiPasquale said.

Some residents felt a protracted battle could open the town to lawsuits for wrongful dismissal. Some worried about the reputation of the community and said Hvidzo was being treated unfairly for something that happened long ago.

Palmer said that Hvizdo, as a "probationary employee," has no recourse in an appeal process. She also said she and the board would evaluate the community input.

She did not say, however, whether Hvizdo’s status would be re-evaluated or when a decision might be forthcoming. “We want to make sure we have the students’ best interests at heart,’’ she said.

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Good Patriot:

Is it inappropriate to ask who the "at the behest of a known troublemaker" is?

The coach was an actor in a 9 minute off-color college film 12 years ago. Really?

Was it worse than Dov Hikind in black face and an afro at a Purim party this week? He was forgiven the next day.

What kind of message is this to the kids? Word hard, finish college, get whacked 12 years later for being in your roomie's film project?

Trojan:

“Probationary employee?” “No recourse on appeal process?” Those words mean NOTHING in the court of human dignity, civil rights, and due process. Someone is deaf. The Town of Weston is insulted. What planet does Ms. Palmer live in? What town do the elected Board of Education officers live in? Did they not hear the TOWN OF WESTON unanimously and emphatically beg them to reverse the decision, rehire Coach Viz and review all of process breakdowns that let to this fiasco? And Ms. Palmer’s nay vote doesn’t count because she doesn’t live here. And neither does the district’s Internal Council that has been filling in as a head of Human Resources for the school district. A fine pickle they’ve gotten us all into! Not only was the situation mishandled by any standards of sound people management, but the bullying tactics themselves and absence of due process will be their undoing in court (which the Town will be asked to foot the bill for!)

To reinstate Coach Hvizdo is a WIN-WIN for WESTON. It will help to rectify a moral injustice, be a huge win for our basketball program and for all future young players in the community. It may be a first step in trying to rebuild our town’s reputation, and a first step in trying to break down the processes that failed in this instance, and hopefully prevent similar events in the future.

Bottom line—what’s wrong-- is wrong. We all know the difference between right and wrong. The Administration doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I’ve never seen all of the liberals, conservatives, independents—everyone I know in town—come together like they have on this issue and agree to something! We need the Board of Education to step up and do the job they were elected to do and guide the Superintendent on this issue. This will not go away until rectified. Westonites—you cannot look away on this. You have to stand up for human dignity and doing the right thing here! BOE—you have to act if the Superintendent does not. It is not acceptable to start citing policies that you have contrived and made up over the years…… You are being called on to act by the people who voted for you!

bluedave:

The only decision that truly keeps the students' best interests at heart is to re-instate Coach Hvizdo. It's a relatively easy press release to write. There are several PR professionals in the area who could provide guidance. Or you can just buy the book "Public Relations for Dummies" on Amazon.

Mr. Zippy:

The idea that this man has been chastised because of being an actor in a film that these ignorant people deem inappropriate is pathetic at best...it is Coleen Plamer who should resign over her inappropriate behavior not the coach. This is purely personally motivated and whomever is responsible for bringing this into question should be ashamed of themselves.

Blabbermouth68:

Where can we SEE the video, rather than listen to all this blabber about the coach. I'm still laughing at a woman defender of the coach claim that "they LITERALLY crucified him." Pretty severe punishment.

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