I applaud staff writer Roger Lalonde’s story headlined “Lely suspends two for season” (Oct. 14) for shedding light on the most recent controversy at Lely High School.
I do, however, feel the need to add some clarification to the events that led to this regrettable situation and perhaps share some insight concerning the undeserved and ruinous result.
My son, Matthew, is one of the players dismissed from the football team. He is not perfect. He made a mistake, a bad choice. He is also a very good kid. He is a well-grounded, self-motivated, dedicated and respectful young man, but still a 17-year-old kid.
I am proud of who and what he is and feel fortunate and blessed to have such a son.
The boys admittedly made a very bad choice. They did not “skip,” as indicated by Principal Ken Fairbanks, but they were out of area between classes.
My son did have a lighter, which he got from his car for another individual to use. My son did not smoke. He does not smoke.
In a sense, this fact is not an issue as the boys were dismissed from the team for walking off the practice field after being taunted by an assistant coach. The boys were completing their punishment as instructed by head coach Dave Miller, when the assistant coach decided to rub it in a little. The boys left the field rather than engage in a verbal exchange with an authority figure. They took the high road and have paid dearly for it.
The coach in question, Jerrod Ackley, admitted to me the next day that he “probably shouldn’t have said” what he did and wished that he hadn’t.
The boys met with Miller the next school day and apologized for walking off the field and indicated that they did so (at the time they were both physically and emotionally drained) rather than get into it with Ackley. The coach’s response was that he would rather they had cussed out Ackley than walked off the field.
We did not raise our son that way and we are appalled that this is the attitude held by a coach/teacher in our school district.
Respect is a character trait that is highly regarded. It is expected in school and should be modeled by mentors to our children.
Fairbanks states that he “does not consider the coach’s remarks to be a major part of the suspension.” He is wrong. In fact, he told me that Ackley had been “dealt with sternly,” although he would not elaborate. He also states that “the statement, though not right, was mild in comparison to what I have heard over my years in education.” Perhaps so, although I don’t know what Fairbanks has heard over the years and this has nothing to do with the situation at hand.
For the adults involved, mistakes were made, principles were compromised, hopefully lessons were learned, and life goes on. For the two youths involved, they made a mistake and have paid dearly for it, with their hopes and aspirations dashed. I am afraid the lesson they have learned is just how unfair life can be. The same people who teach the concept of justice don’t recognize it when it’s staring them in the face.
Matthew watched the Coconut Bowl from the bleachers. He was there with my wife and I as an eighth-grader four years ago, the last time Lely won. He told me then that he was going to play football at Lely.
He lived that dream for 31⁄2 seasons.
Incidentally, there was another man watching the game from the “cheap seats” — former head coach Steve Pricer, who also was dealt an unjust and career-ending condemnation from the administration at Lely High School after over 30 years of dedication to its football program and student-athletes.
But that is another story, and neither one of them is over.
The Daily News welcomes responses of comparable length from those named in this essay. Costello has been involved in the restaurant business in Naples for nearly 30 years. He also is teacher volunteering and substituting in Collier County Public Schools for the past 10 years. His wife, MaryLou, is also a veteran of the restaurant business and has been a full-time teacher at Lely Elementary School for the past 15 years. The Costellos have three sons; Matthew, a senior at Lely High, is the youngest.