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Board of Education votes against bringing back South Side girls soccer coaches this fall

Members of the South Side varsity girls soccer

Members of the South Side varsity girls soccer team and community supporters rallied near the high school on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in support of their coaches after the Rockville Centre School Board voted not to renew their contracts despite recommendations from the athletic director and superintendent. Credit: Newsday

South Side High School's girls soccer coach Jennifer Abgarian and assistant coach Chris Aloisi, who led the Cyclones to a Nassau County championship in April, will not coach the team in the fall. The Rockville Centre Board of Education voted, 3-2, against their return in a July 21 meeting.

South Side (11-2-4) won the championship when the team defeated previously unbeaten MacArthur High School, 2-0, in the Class A final. It was the team's first county title since 2014 and earned Abgarian Newsday's coach of the year honors.

Upset with the board's vote, team members held a rally on July 28 across from the school.

A special meeting of the BOE was held Monday night at South Side for public comment about the decision. The board did not offer an explanation on the vote. Members do not discuss personnel matters.

High school coaches are appointed on a year-to-year basis after approval from the board. Both coaches were endorsed before the board meeting by superintendent June Chang and athletic director Carol Rosato. Neither Chang nor Rosato returned calls seeking comment.

More than 100 people attended Monday's meeting. About 20 people — including several members of the team — made passionate appeals to the board to bring back Abgarian and Aloisi. There were others who spoke to endorse the board’s decision, saying the coaches have for years shown favoritism toward players who competed on a summer travel team coached by Aloisi.

Abgarian and Aloisi declined to comment about the decision. Abgarian has coached South Side for the past four seasons and is a special education teacher at South Side Middle School. Aloisi teaches physical education and health at the middle school and has been a coach since 2012 at South Side.

"This vote was not taken easily, as some people pointed out [and] as some people made a reference to, and it was a very conscious thought," Board of Education president John O’Shea told those in attendance shortly before the meeting was gaveled to a close. "We came to our decision, a majority of the board, and that's how the board moves forward. So, that is the way we will move forward. The vote is what it is."

Asked afterward if the decision on the coaches could be revisited, O’Shea said the only mechanism "would be if the board members chose to do so and that would require votes from three out of five."

In the school lobby outside where the meeting was held, Abgarian and Aloisi addressed the teary-eyed team members. Abgarian told the players, "You will be OK," and, "We believe in you and will support you whether we are on the bench or not."

"The board members walked out of there like they didn’t care about anything we players had said," Cyclones senior captain Cristina LiCalzi said. "It felt disrespectful and condescending."

South Side’s defense of its county title begins soon. Students participating in fall athletics will have preseason medicals in the fourth week of August. For now though, the Cyclones face uncertainty.

As junior Maggie Colvin said, "To leave us with no coach just weeks away from our season? I don’t see where this is in the best interests of our team."

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