Will Maine coach fight for job?
BY JON SEIDEL AND BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporters December 21, 2012 3:56AM
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:29AM
The Maine West High School soccer coach facing dismissal over a hazing scandal will have a little more than two weeks to decide whether to fight for his job.
If Michael Divincenzo, the school’s varsity soccer coach for several years, doesn’t ask for a hearing within 17 days after he gets his notice of the school board’s vote Wednesday to fire him, labor and education officials said his job will be gone.
If he does seek a hearing, he’ll trigger a process that Maine Township High School District 207 representatives have said could take more than a year to play out.
Meanwhile, the school board has voted to suspend Divincenzo without pay. Under Illinois law, he could ultimately be reimbursed for the money he’ll lose during the suspension if the board’s decision is overturned.
Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna — who was not speaking about a specific case — said teachers facing dismissal have a right to try to prove their innocence.
“Just because somebody is dismissed, it doesn’t mean they’re proven guilty,” Klickna said.
Local officials with the IEA, the union representing Maine West teachers, declined to comment because Divincenzo’s case is an ongoing personnel issue.
Divincenzo and freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez have been targeted in a lawsuit that claims they sanctioned hazing rituals that led to the alleged sexual assault of multiple soccer players and a baseball player.
Neither man has made himself available for comment despite several requests.
The resolution adopted by the school board Wednesday outlines the board’s accusations against Divincenzo — claiming he let older members of the soccer team haze younger members in September and July, and that he knew of an assault on the baseball team in 2008. It also said he let varsity soccer players dunk “less senior” players’ heads and grab their genitals in a hot tub at a training camp in Wisconsin.
Illinois law required the school board to produce that list of charges and send them to Divincenzo. If he decides to pursue a hearing, a hearing officer will be selected, and that person will have 75 days to start the hearing.
That hearing must end four months after the officer’s selection, according to the law, and then the officer will have a month to issue a decision and deliver it to Divincenzo and the board.
That officer will decide whether the “conduct occurred, the conduct was remediable, and the proposed dismissal should be sustained,” according to state rules.
Any pension due to Divincenzo likely would remain intact. Dave Urbanek, spokesman for the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, said his agency will suspend educators’ pensions only if they are convicted of a felony that has something to do with their job.
Maine Township school officials said consideration of disciplinary action against other staff members “is also in progress.” The Cook County state’s attorney’s sex-crimes division is conducting a “top-to-bottom” review of the hazing allegations at Maine West.