Reinstated: Arcadia rehires Kerry Taylor as head football coach

Arcadia Head Coach Kerry Taylor speaks to his team after a 2018 workout. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Recently-dismissed Kerry Taylor will return to coach the Arcadia High School football team after nearly two weeks of uncertainty, public outrage and community support.

Mr. Taylor announced his decision via Twitter Tuesday, June 11 after Arcadia Principal Todd Stevens and Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard relayed they had offered Mr. Taylor the position of head coach.

This announcement is an about-face from May 31 when the school decided not to renew Mr. Taylor’s contract for another year. Mr. Stevens explained in a June 10 letter to the community Arcadia coaches are on year-to-year contracts that expires at season’s end.

The decision to originally not bring Mr. Taylor back centered on a pair of Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaw infractions that led the football team to garner a warning. Mr. Stevens also cited comments in the news media and on Twitter after the school had self-reported the infractions as a way Mr. Taylor did not meet the school’s expectations.

Mr. Taylor denied the infractions — which were violations of the AIA’s recruiting and mandatory practices bylaws — in the statements and claimed he wasn’t allowed to provide evidence to back his assertion.

The letter that Mr. Stevens penned stated the non-renewal was made “in the best interest of our student-athletes, our program and the district’s standing” with the AIA.

On top of the announcement, Mr. Stevens offered an apology in the letter to Mr. Taylor.

“On behalf of Arcadia High School and the Scottsdale Unified School District, we would like to offer an apology to Coach Kerry Taylor and our families,” Mr. Stevens said. “We have met to discuss his return to the program and he is well aware that he has a home here at Arcadia.”

Mr. Taylor said he is excited to be back to finish what he and his players started, adding the players deserve to have a good season.

“I’m happy that this whole situation is over with so we can move forward on the present and keep preparing for a great 2019 season,” he said via email. “You never know why you go through certain things, but it’s part of life. You adapt and keep moving forward.”

Rising junior Trey Brown stands among his teammates to share how former head coach Kerry Taylor impacted him in his life. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

The letter stated after a June 5 community meeting, the major takeaway was the negative impact the original decision had on the student-athletes. After the meeting, the letter claimed district officials invited Mr. Taylor back to discuss his future with the football program.

“In that meeting, we were able to come to some mutual agreements that would provide the opportunity for Coach Taylor to continue his work at Arcadia,” Mr. Stevens said in the letter.

“Coach Taylor, our superintendent Dr. Kriekard and our Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, Dr. Milissa Sackos and I all agree that our common purpose is to work collaboratively in the best interest of our students in a way that upholds Governing Board policies and AIA regulations.”

At the June 5 community meeting, many student-athletes expressed support for the coach. Rising senior Paxton Earl, who had been vocal on social media, said the team felt the school had betrayed them and left uncertainty for many of the players.

“We are all beyond grateful that the SUSD Governing Board was able to provide assistance, in particular Dr. Milissa Sackos, who led the forum for us on June 5,” Earl said in an email.

“I am very appreciative that our Principal Mr. Stevens and the SUSD Governing Board were able to rectify this situation.”

Booster Club President Matthew Richardson said he couldn’t be happier with the school and district’s decision.

“It is highly unfortunate that Coach Taylor and the Arcadia football family had to go through this but the district has issued a full apology and removed the Arcadia AD (athletic director) from her position,” Mr. Richardson said via email. “I think that says all you need to know about what happened last week.”

Mr. Stevens referred an email requesting the status of Arcadia Athletic Director Cher Fesenmaier’s employment to the district’s public information officer Amy Bolton. Ms. Bolton declined to comment, saying the district doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

There is, however, a job posting on SUSD’s website for an athletic director at Arcadia and Arcadia girls basketball coach Ives Machiz spoke to the SUSD Governing Board Tuesday, June 11 of his disapproval of the school reportedly firing Ms. Fesenmaier.

Along with Mr. Taylor’s situation, the school is also dealing with alleged racial bias in its basketball program. Arcadia released a statement on June 10 regarding the ongoing investigation into the matter. The information first became public through recently published news reports.

In a letter to the community, Mr. Stevens said the school released preliminary notes to the concerned parties as “a checkpoint in the unfinished investigation.”

He also said the school and district became aware of new information through interviews and media reports that have furthered the investigation. Mr. Stevens said Arcadia basketball coach Stephen Danford and his staff have denied the allegations.

“While we work to complete the investigation, I would like to reiterate that when any student, parent or employee brings forward concerns about fair and equitable treatment, they are taken very seriously and fully investigated,” Mr. Stevens said.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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