Saturday, October 06, 2007

Coach Shay issues an apology

From The News-Review Web site
Updated: 10/6/07 - 10:13 AM

Coach Shay issues an apology
Note posted on school district Web site admits "mistake"

By Denise Civiletti

Riverhead High School football coach Leif Shay has issued an apology to the Riverhead school district and the community, according to a message posted by the district on its Web site.

In the message, Mr. Shay, a physical education teacher at the high school, offers his "sincere apology" for covering up security cameras in the high school gymnasium during a class in the first week of school.

"This is not the direction I would want my students or my own

children to follow. I am certainly brave enough to admit when I have made a mistake," the statement says.

Mr. Shay was "reassigned" by the district pending disciplinary proceedings for his actions. His reassignment meant his removal as head coach of the Riverhead Blue Waves varsity football team, which he led in an undefeated season last year, as well as his removal from regular teaching duties.

The coach's reassignment met with strong reaction from football players, parents and fellow teachers, who attended school board meetings to protest the district's response to the incident. The Riverhead Central Faculty Association organized demonstrations outside the high school before the start of the regular school day over the past month, to voice its support for Mr. Shay. Students circulated petitions demanding his reinstatement.

No announcement accompanied the posting of the statement on the district's Web site, and school board president Nancy Gassert could not be reached for comment on the posting Saturday morning. It is unknown at this time whether Mr. Shay has been or is about to be reinstated as head coach.

Mr. Shay did not return a phone call to his home Saturday morning.

The teachers' union filed a grievance in June over security cameras operating in the gymnasium during classes, which the union says violates its collective bargaining agreement. The grievance came after an incident involving longtime wrestling coach Wade Davey in April, when a diabetic student passed out during a gym class. The incident involving Mr. Davey was captured on a security camera and RCFA president Barbara Barosa said that was the first time teachers realized that the security cameras were running during gym classes.

The district installed the security cameras throughout the high school and the high school grounds in late 2005 at a cost of about $200,000, more than half of which was paid by a federal grant. At the time, Riverhead was one of the first districts on Long Island to have such a system, although other districts have since followed suit.

The teachers' contract contains a provision prohibiting the use of electronic surveillance to monitor and evaluate teachers' performance in classrooms, Ms. Barosa told The News-Review.

The note posted on the school district's Web site reads:

To Riverhead Central School District and its Community,

I would like to take this opportunity to issue a sincere apology for my actions

regarding the security cameras in the High School. I should have let the grievance

procedure take its course. This is not the direction I would want my students or my own

children to follow. I am certainly brave enough to admit when I have made a mistake, and

it is my hope that we can all learn from this and move forward in the development of our


I look forward to continuing our tradition of excellence here in the Riverhead

Central School District. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


Leif Shay

Copyright 2007 Times/Review Newspapers Corp.

From every mountainside

What does freedom mean to you?

Yes, you.

Whoever you are, wherever you're reading this, stop for a moment and think about this. What does freedom mean to you?

Freedom is what it's all about, isn't it? Freedom is what the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) were seeking when they crossed the Atlantic in wooden sailing ships to make a new home in a new world. Freedom is what they fought and died for in the revolt against the crown that began with the shot heard round the world at Lexington in 1775. Freedom for all people, regardless of race, is what divided our country in a bitter, bloody battle that nearly destroyed our nation less than a hundred years after its birth. The goal of protecting our freedom sent the doughboys off to war in Europe during "the war to end all wars" and the G.I.s to Europe and Asia a generation later during World Ware II. "If you love your freedom, thank a Vet."

Freedom is something to covet, to protect, to fight for, to die for.

Freedom is what we're all about here in the U.S. of A, isn't it? It's what we've got, what we've always had, what we've always had so much of that we didn't know what to do with it. So we take it for granted. We hardly give it a second thought. Freedom is woven into the fabric of American society. It is the very essence of America. It's what generation after generation of people from all corners of the earth have come to America to pursue. Freedom to live as you please, in peace, without being bothered. Freedom to think what you want. Freedom to speak your mind. Freedom to move about the country. Freedom to associate with whomever you choose. Freedom to work, to make a buck, to pursue opportunity and make something of yourself, no matter how humble your beginnings. Freedom to worship — Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Satan, the sun, Mother Earth, yourself. Or nothing at all.

Freedom to vote, to choose who will run your government and oversee how they do it. Freedom to know what they're doing, so you can hold them accountable. Freedom to criticize them if they don't do right by you. Freedom to turn them out of office if you see fit. Freedom to ask the government to do what you think is right. Freedom to demonstrate with a group of like-minded people for things you believe in.

Freedom to do nothing. Freedom to sit on your couch every night and watch sitcoms or sports on TV, to never think about freedom. You don't have to. You live in the USA, after all. Your freedom is in the bag. No need to pay attention to what elected officials are doing with your tax dollars. No need to be concerned about government controlling information about how it operates. No need to worry about your rights. You're so certain that all's well, you barely even have to worry about voting. (Fewer than a quarter of eligible voters will participate in next month's general election.)

What's it all about, anyway, this thing called freedom? Does it really matter to us today? Why do some people make such a fuss about these things — especially when we're engaged in a "permanent war" against an "invisible enemy" and some "sacrifice" of individual liberty is "necessary" to secure "freedom" not only for us, but for the rest of the world, to whom we will carry "democracy" (whether they want it or not).

Hey, if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about. Right?

I'm going to dedicate this space to freedom in the coming weeks. Because freedom is, in fact, what it's all about. And freedom is, in fact, in danger. Your freedom. Right here, right now. Your children's freedom, today, next year, 10 years from now. Freedom is under assault in the U.S. — by government at all levels. Even your local school board. But first and foremost, your freedom and your children's freedom are in jeopardy because of complacency, apathy, maybe, even, if the truth be told, a little ignorance — your assumption that it will always be there when you need it.

This newspaper, because we cherish freedom, is participating in the N.Y. Press Association's First Amendment Essay Contest. It's open to students in 11th and 12th grades. Go to our Web site for details at The grand-prize winner in this statewide contest gets $10,000, with cash prizes for local winners chosen from each school district by the Sun and one overall grand-prize winner who will represent the Sun in the state contest.

Encourage your high school age kids to log on and participate. The future of freedom is in their hands.

Ms. Civiletti's e-mail address is