By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover High School football coach John Rafferty has his job back.
Principal Carla Scuzzarella announced the decision Thursday morning, shortly before meeting with team members and giving them the news. Scuzzarella said the conduct of the current and former Scarlet Knight players who spoke on Rafferty’s behalf at the School Committee meeting Monday night made a very positive impression on her, causing her to “re-look at” the firing.
Scuzzarella and Athletics Director John Longley told Rafferty, who has coached NAHS football for 12 years, that he was not being rehired two weeks ago. Longley did not know why he was let go, according to Robert Trickett, a 2012 graduate of North Andover High who now attends Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.
Trickett was among at least 20 people who spoke before the School Committee on Monday night on Rafferty’s behalf.
“I’m not going to talk about why we weren’t going to rehire him,” Scuzzarella said yesterday, explaining that she would never talk publicly about a personnel decision.
“We are moving forward in a positive manner,” Scuzzarella said. “Everybody is on the same page.”
Scuzzarella, who has led North Andover High for six years, said there are two lessons to be learned from the events of the last two weeks. First, “Never be afraid to re-examine a decision,” she said. She also said she hopes students will learn that “adults are not always the enemy. They do listen.”
Regarding Trickett and the other present and former North Andover High School student-athletes who spoke Monday night, Scuzzarella said, “I needed to listen to them.”
Many of the student-athletes said Rafferty taught them how to be men. They also gave “Raff” the credit for turning around the Scarlet Knights football program, which they said was in disarray when he took over.
For many years, North Andover played in the Cape Ann League. Last season the Scarlet Knights moved up to the Merrimack Valley Conference, in which large schools play. They compiled a respectable 4-6 record.
Longley also declined to talk about why Rafferty was dismissed, saying he could not talk to the media about a personnel matter, but he did say he intends to work with the coach to build a solid team.
“I will look forward to having Coach Rafferty back. We are all committed to building the most successful football program possible,” he said.