After a month of protests and petitions from the community, Mike Oliva is back at Pearl River (N.Y.).
The school district reappointed the popular coach at a board of education meeting Tuesday night for the upcoming football season. The decision came a little more than a month after he was abruptly let go as the football and baseball coach.
“We’re all just so happy,” said Dan Scrima, a football and baseball parent who helped rally the community’s support after the district made its decision June 21. “Obviously the way things were done weren’t correct. We’re just so happy for the community. We’re happy for all the kids that a coach with much passion has come back. It was the right thing to do. A wrong was righted.”
Pearl River’s decision came shortly after Oliva had guided the baseball team to its first Section 1 championship ever and first sectional title in 33 years. It came in just his fourth season leading the baseball program after another three spent as head football coach.
“I’m very excited and I’m relieved that this part of it is over,” Oliva said. “It’s been very stressful on everyone. I’m very excited to be back.”
Oliva said in June the decision was about he and athletic director Todd Santabarbara “not seeing eye-to-eye on certain things.” Aggrieved parents were unsatisfied with the lack of answers they received from administrators and responded by staging protests at the high school and creating an online petition. Members of the Pearl River community and the coaching community attended the school board meeting on July 5 to speak publicly on Oliva’s behalf.
“They got an ear full,” said Scrima, whose son, Kevin, starred for the football and baseball teams as a senior last school year.
“The support the community showed — they came out in force in support of me and my family,” Oliva said. “I think that’s the biggest reason we’re here now today and the fact that the administrators listened and the school board listened. It didn’t fall upon deaf ears.”
Not long after the board meeting, Oliva met with Santabarbara and referred to the meeting as “constructive.”
“We talked about some differences in opinion and we’re going to work through those things together,” he said.
When the district appointed Oliva Tuesday, they also approved the appointment of six paid and one volunteer assistant football coaches who formed Oliva’s previous coaching staff. Although it won’t be official until the winter, Oliva said he will also return as the baseball coach.
“Both sports are year-round commitments,” he said. “I’m back as both.”