Supporters just want school board to know the truth about coach Bill Swertfager
By JIM MACLEAN
If you do something for a long time, you gain the wisdom to always seek the truth. We all want to know the truth.
It is true that Bill Swertfager has been a wrestling coach for a long time, 40 years to be exact.
“This is my life’s work. I honestly believe I was put on this earth to do this, to be a coach, and I’m told I’ve changed countless kids’ lives in a positive way.”
That’s what Mr. Swertfager said regarding his career as a coach, many of those 40 years spent in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District as the head wrestling coach at John Jay. He started the program in 1996, working up from a youth program to a modified team in 1999, and finally starting a John Jay varsity team in 2001.There had been no wrestling program at John Jay for 10 years before he started it up again, and he has been there ever since.
So, when word got out that the district was not going to renew his position as the head wrestling coach, the news spread fast, and more than 200 people descended on the Katonah-Lewisboro School Board meeting Thursday, Nov. 3, to let the board know the truth that they know about Mr. Swertfager.
In a span of less than 24 hours from the time when the decision was announced Wednesday until the official vote would take place on Thursday at the board meeting, a legion of former players, coaches, parents and friends organized to spread the word and come out to support coach Swertfager.
The meeting started out tempestuously as the large crowd grew restless listening to the board carrying out the agenda of the meeting. People started calling out, interrupting a presentation, to the point where School Board President Marjorie Schiff announced that they would have to clear the room and cancel the meeting. Then Diane Swertfager, the coach’s wife, stood up and pleaded with the crowd to let the board do their work and conduct the meeting, saying then supporters would be allowed to have their say.
The board meeting proceeded without interruption as the board finished its scheduled agenda and settled in to listen to public comments. One by one, speakers rose to give their public comment. Superintendent Andrew Selesnick and the board sat and listened to every speaker — a total of 70 that took their turn at the microphone. The meeting finally ended at almost 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
“They gave everybody more than three minutes and didn’t cut anybody off,” Mr. Swertfager noted, acknowledging the board’s gesture. “I know the rule and kept my comments to three minutes, but they let people go and tell their story without cutting them off, and I really appreciate that.”