Updated: 10/6/07 - 10:13 AM
Coach Shay issues an apology
Note posted on school district Web site admits "mistake"
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 ShayCopyright 2007 Times/Review Newspapers Corp.