David Mendez

Supporters line up to back RUHS coach

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by David Mendez

A wall of Redondo Union High School baseball players, two rows deep, lined the chambers of the Redondo Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education Tuesday night meeting to protest the school district’s alleged plan to effectively fire baseball coach Andy Diver at the end of his two-year probationary period with the school. 

However, the district has not yet taken public actions regarding Diver’s employment. The reasons behind the district’s possible separation from Diver are unclear. When asked for specifics, RBUSD Board President Brad Waller declined, stating that the district does not discuss personnel issues. But parents speaking at the night’s meeting suggested two possibilities: that an unnamed disgruntled baseball parent was applying pressure owing to a playing-time related grudge against Diver; or that comments Diver made about a high school student’s outfit led to his ouster.

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“At this point, the board has taken zero actions,” Waller said in an interview Wednesday. “I have great confidence in our principal, superintendent and administrators that when they make a decision to hire or not hire someone, they’re doing their due diligence…we don’t hire or fire lightly.”

Diver was hired by the district as baseball coach in May 2018, replacing former coach Jeff Baumback. Diver played collegiate baseball at Loyola Marymount, and coached at the University of Arizona and Los Angeles Harbor College. In August 2018, Diver was then hired to teach physical education at RUHS. Under the California Education Code, certificated teachers can be made permanent after passing a two-year probationary period, and are considered permanent on the first day of their third school year.

Last season, the Sea Hawks varsity baseball team fell just short of competing for the CIF Southern Section Division II Championship, losing to Santa Margarita 9-1 in the semi-finals last May.

Diver’s supporters that filled the room offered nothing but praise for his skills and character as a coach during a public comment period reserved for topics that are not on the meeting’s agenda, and thus cannot be discussed by the board.

“I’ve seen nothing but good,” said Harry Jenkins, a legendary former Redondo baseball coach, who racked up 651 victories in his career. “I give you an observation of a good man, a loyal man, someone who is incredibly dedicated.”

Brett McCauley, an RUHS senior, spoke on behalf of his teammates, calling Diver “what every player wishes for in a high school coach,” calling him “passionate and fair,” and crediting Diver for working tirelessly in bringing his students exposure by professional scouts.

But freshman baseball coach Paul McPherson, in his own defense of Diver, brought up two incidents involving the coach. First, he described an incident in which a disgruntled parent inferred that they would sue the district if their child was not elevated to the school’s junior varsity baseball team, implying pressure against the district. A text message from the parent, read aloud by McPherson, indicated that “there may be a head coaching position available…if [they] get their way.” 

“That is a message you need to be aware of — if you’re not aware of it, you are now,” he added.

In the second, McPherson described an incident in which Diver allegedly made a “negative comment to another staff member regarding the inappropriate manner in which a student was dressed.”

McPherson described the comment as “an opinion…not intended for anybody else,” that was overheard by students, who told the original student. He continued to say that the complaint was then made by students to RUHS administration.

McPherson did not respond to a phone call asking him to clarify his comments.

“What’s frustrating for everyone is that we can’t share all of the details,” said Dr. Nicole Wesley, RBUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. “We can’t control what employees share — or what they don’t share. And when information is shared by one party, oftentimes people can only fill in the gaps.”

Wesley also said that administrators will always look into parent complaints, though they won’t take corrective action without “evidence, facts or something to substantiate the complaint.” She emphasized that discussions of playing time are handled solely by coaches.

When reached for comment, and to clarify the “incidents” described by McPherson, Diver simply replied, via text message, “I love teaching and coaching at Redondo and look forward to the upcoming season!” When pressed, he added that he is “not allowed to make any comments now regarding anything.”

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