Written by Daniel Offner Wednesday, 29 January 2014 00:00
Parents in the Island Trees School District are up in arms after learning the district terminated Coach Michael Bonsignore. Many parents wondered what motivated the board to let go of a coach who had vastly improved the football program and led a scholar-athlete team this year.
According to Michael's father, Carl Bonsignore, the Island Trees Superintendent, Dr. Charles Murphy, and Athletic Director Dr. James Kramer met with Michael and a union representative over the holiday break to inform him that the district “had decided to go in a different direction.”
“They owe it to the people of this community to give an explaination,” said Carl Bonsignore, 62. “Quite frankly, I’m disgusted by this.”
He is not alone. At the Board of Education meeting on Jan. 24, high school senior and varsity wrestler Andrew Zabala addressed the school board with a petition signed by over 350 kids in the district; and another signed by 33 varsity athletes who each provided one or two words about the coach. The list included words such as: "brotherhood" and "leadership."
“I did it because he’s done so much for us, as a coach, as a friend,” said Zabala, 17. “And we really appreciate all he’s done for us.”
Throughout the meeting, the trustees of the school board sat in silence as parents continued to speak out in favor of Coach Bonsignore. The board refused to address the student petition, with board members saying it could not comment on personnel matters in a public forum.
“It’s a shame what they did,” said Island Trees parent Steven Scordio, 47. According to Scordio, Bonsignore was instrumental in creating the school district’s youth football program. He remembered Island Trees before the youth football program, and how students were not prepared for the high school level, with the exception of 2 or 3 kids in the district who would play for the Levittown Red Devils.
“I guess it’s too little, too late now,” Scordio said.
Donna Zbikowski, chair of the youth football booster club, recited the school’s athletics philosophy, which states: “Because intellectual excellence is our priority, coaches expect and actively encourage students to do well in class and to meet their academic commitments with wholehearted desire, dedication, self-discipline and commitment.”
She retorted that Bonsignore led a scholar-athlete team and questioned why the district would decide to let him go if the district philosophy is not about winning but about excelling in academia.
“This was uncalled for,” Zbikowski said.
Dr. Charles Murphy would only say, “I am unable to comment on personnel matters in public.”