MONROE, CT — A lengthy investigation of the Masuk High School football program divided the community, before ending with the Board of Education approving a settlement agreement with conditions at a special meeting on Jan. 18, allowing Head Coach Steve Christy, who was on administrative leave last season, to coach the team next fall.
Christy’s supporters are excited to get their leader back on the sidelines. However, it will only be for one more season, according to a copy of the settlement agreement, which The Sun obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Though it includes a condition that Christy submit a non-revocable letter of retirement, which he did on Jan. 4, on Saturday, Christy told The Sun it was his decision to retire regardless of that stipulation.
“It was my decision to leave after this year,” he said in a telephone interview. “This was not a decision they told me I must accept. I wanted to go out with this team, because this is the team I started with in sixth grade.”
As to the accusations made by some parents and the rest of the settlement, Christy said, “there’s been no wrongdoing. I just want us to move forward. Enough’s enough. I want to get back with my with coaches and players. I want to coach.
“I want Masuk to heal,” he added. “I love this town.”
Reached for comment on Saturday, Board of Education Chairman David Ferris specified that the investigation was into the Masuk football program, rather than any individual.
“I am not going to comment on the Steve Christy settlement and letter, because we settled this with Coach Christy,” Ferris said. “There are still other personnel matters that need to be resolved as well, the board is looking at policies, coaching contracts and vendor contracts that may need to be changed or improved.”
Christy agreed not to take legal action against the school board, individual members, its agents, attorneys, insurers and employees, including but not limited to Superintendent Joseph Kobza and Assistant Superintendent Sheila Casinelli.
This includes any and all claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
In a letter from the superintendent to Christy on July 9, 2023, also obtained by The Sun through an FOI request, Kobza wrote:
This letter is to follow-up on our conversation from July 6, 2023. In addition to you and I, that meeting was also attended by Brett Pickerign (CEA Representative), Ralph Franco (MEA President), Sheila Casinelli (Assistant Superintendent), and Eric Giordano (Assistant Football Coach).
We met to discuss allegations of abuse, fear, and intimidation waged by parents of former players against yourself and Eric Giordano. Those allegations have gone directly to the Board of Education. The Board of Education has hired independent counsel to further investigate the allegations. While these are still allegations, we discussed that you shall be on administrative leave from all Masuk football activities until the investigation is complete.
Throughout the investigation, Christy and Giordano denied any wrongdoing.
During the process, some of Christy’s supporters were critical of the way the school board carried out the investigation. As part of the settlement, both sides do not admit to engaging in any acts of wrongdoing.
Handling of injuries
According to the settlement, Christy agreed to several conditions for the upcoming season. Among them, the coach shall take CIAC approved or other district-approved concussion training during the summer of 2024 prior to the football season and provide written documentation that he and his other football coaches participated in the training.
This is regardless of when the coach most recently received training on concussions.
The agreement also outlines a strict written protocol for the handling and treating of players’ injuries to be approved by the superintendent or a designee. The protocol shall comply with all CIAC rules and guidelines.
At a minimum, it shall require the head coach to receive a written notice from the trainer that an athlete has been injured and cannot play, which the coach must sign. Prior to returning to play, the coach must receive and sign written notice from the trainer stating the athlete may return to competition.
The coach must also agree that the helmet of any athlete experiencing concussion symptoms must be taken so that he cannot return to play.
Once approved, this protocol must be sent to all athletes and parents.
Prior to the start of practices, Christy must send a written correspondence to the players and parents that states:
“Any player who sustains an injury in practice or in a game must immediately report his injury to the trainer or a football coach. There shall be no retaliation against any player who reports any such injury and players should feel free to report their injuries at any time.”
Other conditions are:
- The coach shall refrain from using foul language at games and at practices and should direct the other coaches to do the same.
- The coach shall cooperate in any investigation conducted by the district.
- The coach shall refrain from public communications regarding the investigation and the proceedings leading up to this Agreement that uses the names of students.
All parties signed the agreement with the understanding that Christy’s job may be terminated by the assistant superintendent if he fails to meet the conditions or violates board policies.
Prior to taking such action, the coach shall be provided with a written statement of the reasons for such action and an opportunity to be heard by the assistant superintendent, according to the agreement, however, the decision of the assistant superintendent shall be final.
The settlement also reiterates an existing board policy that the head coach may recommend the hiring of assistant coaches, but the board and administration has the sole authority over hirings, renewals and terminations.
All respectful comments with the commenter’s first and last name are welcome.