EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 5, 2013

Letter: Coach Rafferty firing defies understanding

To the editor:

I came to know him as “Raff,” as did most of those who work with him in his capacity as senior case worker at the Billerica House of Correction.

Upon hearing of John Rafferty’s dismissal as head football coach at North Andover High, I am moved to add my voice to the crescendo of support and outrage echoing around the Merrimack Valley.

I can’t speak to his credentials as a football tactician, nor do I feel the need to. His accomplishments as a player at Syracuse University and his coaching experience prior to the North Andover job appear to be excellent preparation for instructing young men in the X’s and O’s of football. His 12 year-record as the North Andover coach speaks eloquently to this.

Despite the fact many of North Andover’s better athletes are lost to private schools, Raff would certainly have met any reasonable person’s standard of excellence.

What I can speak to is John Rafferty, the man.

Raff reported directly to me as the director of Inmate services at the Middlesex Sheriff’s Department. I was able to see his day-to-day interaction with young inmates and staff. One of my responsibilities was to evaluate the performance of all caseworkers.

Essentially, I asked caseworkers to engage young inmates in examining the life circumstances that may have contributed to the fact that they were now in prison facing a term of incarceration and, most importantly, to not accept those factors — drugs, alcohol, family issues, etc.—as excuses for their decisions. Caseworkers were also called upon to set firm limits on inmates during their confinement and to enforce these limits when called upon. Many caseworkers could provide the empathy needed to engage the inmates in formulating discharge plans or excelled in setting behavioral limits. A relative few embodied both. Raff stood apart from his caseworker colleagues in this regard and excelled in both.

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