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On the Marc: The right thing reigns supreme

Politics took it on the chin this summer. Bureaucracy was dealt a knockout blow. The right thing, as it should, prevailed.

Arnie Rosenbaum, who found himself being forced out of a job just six months ago due to a legal loophole in the United Federation of Teachers contract, will return as Francis Lewis girls’ volleyball coach this fall.

Back in February, Rosenbaum, who declined to comment, was facing a fight he never expected – or wanted – to be in. Just three months earlier, he coached the Patriots to a third PSAL Class A title and now he was about to lose a position he so cherished.

The UFT contract states that an eligible teacher must be given preference over an administrator when it comes to a coaching job. Rosenbaum teaches two physical education classes, but is the assistant principal for Health and Physical Education and is considered an administrator at Francis Lewis. And once he became an AP in 2000, Rosenbaum lost his r etention rights for the position.

That was the ruling of an arbitrator in February when Rosenbaum, Francis Lewis Principal Jeffrey Scherr and a union rep from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators went up against Lou Volpato and a UFT rep. Volpato, the school’s boys’ volleyball coach, filed grievances in 2004, 2005 and 2006 in an attempt to take Rosenbaum’s job.

The girls’ volleyball gig became an open one and whoever applied would be given preference over Rosenbaum. But no one did. Volpato will coach boys’ bowling this fall and Rosenbaum will take his rightful place on the girls’ volleyball sidelines.

Most are satisfied — especially the kids. And isn’t that what matters in the first place?

“I’m very, very happy about him coming back,” junior Alicja Pawelec said. “He’s the face of Francis Lewis volleyball. If it was anyone else coaching, it wouldn’t be the same. The team wouldn’t mean as much if he wasn’t the coach.”

Before coming to Francis Lewis, Rosenbaum spent 10 years as a college volleyball coach, compiling an overall record of 206-164 at Manhattanville, Molloy College, Concordia, C.W. Post and Division I LaSalle, where he was named co-coach of the year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 1990. His coaching résumé is impeccable – it’s as good or better than any other coach’s in the city.

In 12 years coaching the Patriots, Rosenbaum has amassed more than 200 wins and won three PSAL Class A city championships. In 2006, after he took a team with a core of freshman to the PSAL city title match, he was named TimesLedger All-Queens Coach of the Year.

It’s hard to blame his players for feeling cheated. Pawelec said that she and her teammates discussed boycotting and not playing this year if Rosenbaum didn’t return as coach. She and fellow juniors Chereese Sheen and Gyna Anthony figure to be three of the best players in the PSAL the next two seasons.

“I was very frustrated, because I felt the players were being punished for something silly,” Pawelec said. “They weren’t thinking about us. I was very angry.”

But when the Patriots returned to Francis Lewis for preseason practice Monday, there Rosenbaum was, clipboard in hand. All was well again.

There was a little lesson to be learned from this, one that might not be taught in high-school classrooms as much as it should be: the difference between right and wrong. It’s not always about the letter of the law or a literal interpretation.

All Rosenbaum did was win matches and send girls to college on scholarships. What kind of message would Francis Lewis be sending its students if he was no longer allowed to do that because of some bureaucratic nonsense?

Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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