So it was on June 13, when I got an email from a woman who had seen a story on East Greenwich Patch about the EGHS girls softball team. Looking at the pictures that accompanied the article, she saw one with Ed DePastina in a coach’s shirt. DePastina is a former teacher at the high school as well as the former softball and boys basketball coach.
How can he be coaching again, she asked. According to her, DePastina was prohibited from coaching several years ago. This was news to me, and a terrible irony since the softball team was about to play in the state championship and their spirit and grit had, I’ll admit, captured my heart.
If I wrote about DePastina, that story threatened to overshadow the girls’ accomplishments. But how could I ignore the email?
The email’s author refused to talk on the record, but she referred to DePastina’s “behavior” as the reason he was banned from coaching, offering no additional information.
So I started making phone calls. I talked at length with one former School Committee member who provided a lot of “background” information (journalism-speak for stuff you can’t use in a story but could use to help you get more information).
Once I had the initial information confirmed (albeit off the record), I called current School Committee Chairwoman Deidre Gifford. She said she needed to investigate the claim and would get back to me.
Meanwhile, the girls fastpitch softball team beat Portsmouth to . More irony: Ed DePastina is the one who introduced fastpitch to EGHS back in 1981. He coached until handing over the reins to Rob Petrucci, his longtime assistant, who is now the head coach. The win was, without doubt, a triumph.
DePastina, I had learned, was a volunteer coach. He had been asked back last year, by Coach Petrucci. From both Petrucci and DePastina, I was told that DePastina had received permission to coach. It remained unclear who granted that permission, especially after Supt. Victor Mercurio’s cryptic comment about the issue:
“All individuals responsible for the supervision of our fall, winter, and spring athletic programs executed those duties according to consistent policies, expectations, and standards for participation in those roles,”
When I sought further comment from Gifford and current Athletic Director Chris Cobain, I was referred back to Mercurio’s statement. No other would be forthcoming.
So, I was left with the question: did Cobain and then-principal Jeannine Nota know about the earlier prohibition placed on DePastina? No answer.
To be clear: I had not heard anything to indicate that DePastina had acted inappropriately during the past two years as a volunteer coach for the softball team.
This was more a question of follow through than anything else. What happens when one School Committee places a prohibition on someone and years pass (six in this instance), along with superintendents (two), principals (four), and athletic directors (two).
How is that information passed down? Or not.
Well, six days after ’s run, I have no better idea.
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