Michael Laorenza, whose two sons played under Rafferty, made a determined but unsuccessful drive for the end zone.
“Can you override the decision?” Laorenza asked Hutchinson. “It’s a yes or no question. That’s all we want to know.”
“I’m not going to answer because you’re trying to draw men into (a discussion on a personnel matter),” Hutchinson said.
“You’re not going to answer my question,” Laorenza said.
Many of the speakers credited Rafferty, who did not attend last night’s session, with rebuilding a football program that had fallen into disarray. They described a Thanksgiving game with archrival Masconomet Regional High School that ended with a brawl several years ago, before Rafferty was hired.
Stephen O’Grady, a former North Andover High football player, said Rafferty’s emphasis on team discipline drastically reduced the number of personal fouls committed by North Andover players.
Patrick Turner, a 2003 NAHS graduate, cut short a vacation in Florida to attend last night’s meeting and support his high school football coach. He expressed his “extreme displeasure” at the decision and said people have “nothing but wonderful things to say about this man.”
Turner said he learned more from Rafferty than any of his teachers.
“I think you made a terrible mistake,” he told the school officials.
Former School Committee member Daniel Murphy also said that Rafferty rebuilt a program that had been in disarray.
“We couldn’t be prouder of this program,” he said. “You’ll never find a replacement for him.”
Brianna Slattery, an eighth-grader at North Andover Middle School and daughter of Kevin Slattery, an assistant football coach at North Andover High, said school officials should reflect on “what he (Rafferty) has done.”
The football players who turned out to support their coach were dressed in ties and waited quietly and patiently – many of them standing – for almost an hour while the committee discussed other agenda items before opening the floor to public comment.
“I feel your pain,” School Committee member Brian Gross said. “I know this is tough. You should be proud of who you are.”
School Committee member Andrew McDevitt said he was “incredibly impressed” with Rafferty’s supporters.
Scuzzarella and Longley both attended the meeting. They told The Eagle-Tribune they could not comment on personnel matters.