After a tumultuous last couple of months, current Pierson Middle School physical education teacher and former Pierson High School varsity basketball coach, Fred Marienfeld, announced his resignation on Friday, June 12. In a brief special meeting held on Friday, the school board accepted Marienfeld’s resignation. There was no comment from the audience, made up of a few teachers and members of the public. School board president Walter Wilcoxen said the board didn’t have an official comment, but added that “It was Fred’s choice and it was personal.”
In a terse letter drafted to the school, Marienfeld informed the board that he was resigning from his post for personal reasons.
Marienfeld had been a teacher with the Sag Harbor School District since December 2004. He also served as the Pierson varsity basketball coach since 2005 and led the team to three consecutive playoff berths. In 2006, Marienfeld was named the League VIII coach-of-the-year. However, Marienfeld was released from his coaching position by the school in late January, 2009, after a series of much-publicized conflicts between himself and two players and their parents.
In a Sag Harbor Express article by Benito Vila dated February 4, Marienfeld referenced the “shortcomings of those players, in their preparation and emotional make-up.”
At the time, Pierson’s athletic director, Bill Madsen, who also recently resigned from his position, said, “‘Our expectation is that our coaches will treat our student athletes with dignity and respect and Coach didn’t meet that expectation.’”
Madsen’s resignation is unrelated to Marienfeld’s.
Initially, Marienfeld was suspended from his coaching duties for criticizing and cursing at his players during halftime at a January 6 game between Pierson and Mercy. The incident was followed by two players, Nick DePetris and Jake Federico, leaving the team after “a grueling practice” on January 7. These episodes prompted East Hampton Star sports reporter Jack Graves to report on the conflict between Marienfeld and the players. In the article, from January 27, one parent accused Marienfeld of “demoralizing” the members of his team. While Marienfeld contended that one of the players, DePetris, had a history of quitting the varsity team. After receiving a disciplinary suspension from his coaching duties, he was subsequently let go from this position and Christian Johns was named interim coach for the basketball team. But Marienfeld was able to retain his post as the middle school physical education teacher.
It is unclear whether these previous events affected Marienfeld’s decision to resign from this job, as Marienfeld did not return phone calls seeking comment.
According to school superintendent Dr. John Gratto, the school has already begun to look for someone to take over Marienfeld’s position.
“We are currently looking for a replacement and that was a good reason to accept his resignation quickly,” explained Wilcoxen.
Dr. Gratto said the position is currently posted on an online application system for educators on a website in partnership with the Putnam and Northern Westchester BOCES. He added that the school will advertise the job in next week’s issue of the Southampton Press and the Sag Harbor Express. Dr. Gratto will also send out the position information to colleges in New York State which allow students to major in Physical Education.
Although, several members of the community have complained about Marienfeld’s coaching, others say they will be sad to see him leave as a district teacher.
“There is a lot of speculation about what happened [to make Marienfeld resign], but the fact is that the district is losing a good teacher and a good coach,” said Vila.