Donning Rams colors and seemingly united under one cause, students, parents and coaches jam-packed the chambers of the Dixon City Council during last night’s meeting of the Dixon Unified School District Board of Education.
The wave of green, white and black that washed over the chambers was spurred by the decision to re-hire Dixon High Rams Varsity Football Coach Wes Besseghini and cut ties with Junior Varsity Coach Troy Hensley for the next football season.
In nearly an hour of public comment the crowd of students, parents, friends and coaches let out their concerns and frustrations with the football coaching staff at Dixon High.
“We are talking about a coach that had a winning season … and has a special connection with each one his players,” DHS JV Coach Steve Bird told the school board. “Troy Hensley was an integral part of the success of this year’s JV team and I’ll ask you to provide more valid reasons for his dismissal other than creative differences. I would recommend that he be reinstated or at least be re-considered for reinstatement.”
Bird’s comments to the board drew applause from the crowd and set the tone for the rest of the commentary.
“I’ve been playing football since I was six years old and Troy Hensley has coached me through the years,” said Nolan Williams, who was part of the JV team last season. “He has been a father figure to me since my dad is in San Diego. So far, my football experience at Dixon High has been everything I could have hoped for. Our team went 9-1 and we were league champions.”
But the decision to dismiss Hensley as the JV coach, which took place about two weeks ago said DHS Principal John Barsotti, has caused Williams and the rest of his teammates to question whether to play football next year. Williams told the board that he would not play for Dixon and move to San Diego with his father should the school uphold its staffing decision.
“I plan on playing football in college,” Williams told the board. “I cannot let poor decisions in Dixon at the high school hurt my chances to do so ... I have not taken this decision lightly.”
Williams was not alone in his sentiments. At one point during the public comments portion of the meeting, a student asked his fellow student-athletes if they would play football under Coach Besseghini. No one raised a hand. The student then asked if they would join the team under Coach Hensley, and each of the athletes raised their hands.
“It’s a big difference playing for Wes than playing for Troy,” said Marlon Oraye, member of the varsity squad. “I feel like there is no motivation playing for Coach Wes.”
Despite emerging as Golden Empire League Champions, after a rocky start to the season, the varsity players in attendance were frustrated with Besseghini’s coaching style.
“He’s lacking respect, he’s lacking discipline, he’s lacking,” said Nico Bedoya, who is on the varsity team. “We were league champions but no one is happy with the season.”
“I just hope that they (the school board) got the message,” said Max Richards, a junior varsity player for the Rams.
Coach Besseghini was not in attendance during last night’s meeting, but reached by phone afterwards, Besseghini commented on the backlash caused by his decision to proceed with another JV coach.
“I made a choice for the program to move forward with a different JV head coach and it has caused a lot of animosity from a certain group of people and I’m not going to move backward, I’m going to move forward,” he said. “I am making a change that I feel is going to take this program to the next level.”
Besseghini declined to discuss the reason behind his decision to seek the dismissal of Coach Hensley; Principal Barsotti also declined to talk specifics but said his decision to retain Besseghini was based on his personal observations – watching practices and games and seeing things with his own eyes, he said.
Many in the audience speculate that the two coaches had a personality clash. They ask why the school would get rid of a coach who took the JV team to a 9-1 record last season and capture the league championship.
However, Barsotti said it would be inappropriate to comment on an issue that’s seen in the eyes of the administration as a private personnel matter.
Barsotti did say however that the testimony given last night, and several phone calls and e-mails he has received since news of his decision spread throughout the school has given him insight that he did not have beforehand. The hiring process of coaches at Dixon High changed when Barsotti became principal last year.
He is now hiring coaches after the seasons are over, instead of hiring them right before they begin, he said.
Although Barsotti said that Besseghini has been officially re-hired, the decision could be subject for re-evaluation. Barsotti plans to meet with concerned parents, students and anyone else who has a stake in this issue before finalizing the hiring of Besseghini and the dismissal of Hensley.
“I’m not going to say that’s the final decision,” Barsotti said.
As far as the gripes that his players made against him, Coach Besseghini said “I am trying to move forward with this football season and I hope those kids can put the love of the game before their problems with me.”
Coach Hensley could not be reach for comment due to the lateness of the meeting. We will update the story as soon as we get in contact with the coach.
We will also be posting a separate story later in the day about the cheerleading program at Dixon High that also garnered a lot of public comment last night. Keep logging on to the Patch for further updates.
The school board did not comment on this issue because it was not on the agenda; The testimony was given during the public comments portion of the meeting.
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