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February 8, 2013

Coach Raff brought out the best in North Andover

NORTH ANDOVER -- For 24 hours I’ve tried to put the Coach John Rafferty firing and rehiring, which lasted nearly two weeks, in some sort of perspective. And then it hit me.

It’s a Wonderful Life.

Yes, I’m equating two bizarre weeks in North Andover to the feel-good Christmas movie classic.

Sure, there were some painful and nasty times, sort of the “Pottersville” side to the incredibly inspiring story.

The silence and hiding behind the “personnel matter” by the North Andover Schools Superintendent, principal and athletic director was agonizingly frustrating. They gambled this sentiment, that “Raff was robbed of his job,” would eventually go away.

They, of course, lost. But their story is for another day.

What transpired outside of the North Andover Schools System administrative offices was amazing.

A Facebook page -- “Support Coach Rafferty” -- was started. Petitions to “Bring Back Raff” were in several businesses and locations throughout North Andover. People were picking up updated petitions and delivering them to “Bring Back Raff” Headquarters at Stachey’s Pizza.

In fact, two of his cashiers had a side jobs of counting up the signatures on the petitions as they came in.

That was the special part of his movement. Despite the major issues that Rafferty’s supporters had, other than a few “personal” comments in the comments section of Eagle-Tribune stories, there was very little name calling.

Instead, after getting nowhere with the school employees, many of Rafferty’s supporters went to the School Committee, which really didn’t want this on their plates. But with about 700 people signing a petition and about the same amount clicking the “like” tab on the “Support Coach Rafferty” Facebook page, the School Committee had to at least listen to people vent on Monday night.

The key moment of this movement occurred that night when about 40 current football players, all wearing ties, stood behind their captains as Tommy Stabile succinctly said firing their coach was wrong.

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