To the Editor:
I am a parent of a freshman at Pilgrim High School who is on the girls indoor and outdoor track teams, and I am writing on behalf of many concerned parents regarding the recent treatment of Coach Tom Dolce by some members of the school committee. In a nutshell, Coach Dolce recently submitted his application for reappointment as head coach of the Pilgrim girls outdoor
track team. Included with his application, were recommendations by Superintendent Philip Thorton and Athletic Director Ken Rix. At the February 14 school committee meeting, Coach Dolce's name was not on the reappointment list of coaches or the rejection list, nor was there any discussion by all school committee members regarding his rehire or why he was removed from the list. Therefore, he was not rehired.
On February 19 a job posting for head coach was posted on the Warwick Schools web page. Apparently, Chairperson Karen Bachus removed his name without discussion by
all committee members. Committee members David Testa and Kyle Adams have confirmed that they had no idea why the coach's name was removed from the list, and when Chairperson Karen Bachus was asked why no explanation was
given at that time.
Since the Feb. 14 meeting, Coach Dolce has resubmitted his application and written to both Judith Cobden and Karen Bachus asking why his application was rejected and why was his name removed from the reappointment list. Karen Bachus responded that all coaching positions are for one year only and reappointments are not guaranteed. However, in a phone conversation held on Thursday night with another concerned parent, Ms. Bachus indicated Coach Dolce would not be rehired due to complaints filed against him.
Prior to the February 14 school committee meeting, Coach Dolce had no idea there were any complaints against him and what those complaints were. Since that meeting, he still hasn't seen them, hasn't been allowed to address them, and no one from the school committee has had a conversation with him regarding the complaints.
I have known Coach Dolce since my daughter first joined Warwick Wolves, the recreational track and field program that Coach Dolce and Principal Ron Celio started together in 2013. As many people know, Coach Dolce has been coaching for over 40 years and over 25 years as the Pilgrim Girls' head
track coach. In 2011 he was inducted as a Rhode Island Hall of Fame Coach, has coached many teams and athletes – my daughter included – to numerous track wins and titles at the high school level. Most recently, these wins include third place team achievement at the RI Freshmen States, first place team win at
the JV States, with many Pilgrim athletes securing numerous medals for individual achievements throughout the track season as well. My daughter and her 4x400 relay team have also secured an opportunity to compete at the New England Interscholastic Indoor Track Championships. Many of his
athletes have gone on to receive collegiate wins and titles as well. All of the medals, awards and trophies that the Pilgrim Girls Track team has brought home were done so under the experienced guidance of Coach Dolce.
I have multiple concerns regarding this matter. Does Ms. Bachus have the authority to make hiring decisions by herself, without all school committee members being informed or even having a discussion or vote on it? Why wasn't Coach Dolce informed about the complaints and allowed to address them? Are the complaints someone's personal vendetta against the coach? If Coach Dolce has acted inappropriately in any way, he has the right to know. Why wasn't a chain of command followed and the complaints brought to the attention of Pilgrim High School's Athletic Director Scott Bayah, Coach Dolce's superior? Where is the due process, the transparency within the school committee, the respect due a coach whose successful career precedes
him? What are the policies and guidelines that determine who gets reappointed and who doesn't by the school committee? What is the protocol for removing a vetted coach's application from the reappointment process?
And what about the inappropriate behavior of Ms. Bachus telling a parent why Coach Dolce would not be rehired, but not telling the coach himself?
We live in the United States, where someone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. All coaches receive complaints against them during their careers. I remember not liking my high school gymnastics coach because she worked me hard. I suppose if I was a manipulative teenager, I could have convinced my
parents to write a letter complaining about how tough and unfair the coach was on me, when in reality I was just plain lazy.
In the December 27, 2018 issue of the Warwick Beacon Karen Bachus said advocating for better transparency would be her primary goal if she became chairwoman. Where is that transparency now? At the very least, Coach Dolce
deserves a conversation to know why.