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Community at odds over firing of CHS head football coach

Jose ‘Coco’ Jarin has been fired as the head coach of the Claremont High School football program after just two years on the job. CHS Principal Brett O’Connor announced the decision in a letter that was sent to the parents of football players on Monday.

“After much consideration, I informed Jose ‘Coco’ Jarin this afternoon that he is no longer the head football coach at CHS,” Mr. O’Connor wrote in the letter.

No official reason was given for the action. Mr. O’Connor said only that “personnel decisions and the reasons behind those decisions are confidential to protect the employee’s rights.”

Mr. O’Connor praised Coach Jarin’s dedication and hard work but said, “I felt it was in the best interest of the program to make a change at this time.”

Coach Jarin said the decision took him by surprise coming the day after the annual football banquet, and was particularly jarring because he had just been named employee of the month for his full-time job as a proctor at CHS.

“I was told that a group of parents and some kids, maybe 10 percent, were not happy,” Coach Jarin said Wednesday evening. He said the meeting with Mr. O’Connor “was very vague” and was told that the exact reason for his dismissal was “personal and confidential.”

“We have done a lot of good things to create a better atmosphere. I thought we ran a smooth operation. He [Mr. O’Connor] told me ‘don’t worry about it [the complaints]’ so I didn’t and it got me fired,” Coach Jarin said.

“It’s not a good direction for Claremont. There are many people who are hurt,” he said.

Jeanie Lindblade, whose son Jack is an offensive lineman in his third year with the team, said that a handful of parents did not like Coach Jarin and actively sought to have him removed.

She described a “smear campaign” that included a leaflet denouncing the coach that was circulated around campus at the beginning of the semester.

“Some people thought that he played favorites, but I don’t think so. Football is mentally tough and physically tough—he liked the boys to be challenged. Some of these kids didn’t like him because he made them work,” Ms. Lindblade said.

She described parents who often confronted the coaching staff. “A handful of parents should be embarrassed, yelling at coaches after practice,” Ms. Lindblade said.

Campbell Wright, whose son Nick is a member of the team, agreed with Ms. Lindblade’s assessment.

“There was a lot of dissention. I saw some of the disgruntled parents. There were things that went around, and I thought, ‘What’s this all about?’,” Mr. Wright said. “I more want to advocate for my son. He needs to earn his place on the team on his own performance, not because of lobbying or complaining.”

Mr. Wright explained he was unhappy with the way complaints about coaching were brought forward.

“I had no issues with the man. Could I make some constructive suggestions? Yes, but nothing worth making a stink about,” Mr. Wright said. “If he was abusing my kid I could have gone to [athletic director] Rick Dutton, which would have been more constructive than circulating a flier.”

A group of about five parents showed up at a CUSD school board meeting at the start of November, hoping to take complaints about problems with a CHS football coach—name unspecified—to the public comment portion of the meeting.

COURIER education reporter Sarah Torribio observed Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Mike Bateman speaking with the concerned group. He shared that the district was aware that some Wolfpack families had issues with happenings in the football program and requested that—rather than speaking during public comment—they meet directly with him. The parents agreed and he set up a meeting for the following morning. Mr. Bateman emphasized that he was open to hearing their concerns. 

“I don’t know a lot about the decision, but I talked to them and passed on the information,” Mr. Bateman said.

Julie Pedroza, president of the Parent Faculty Association at CHS and co-chair of the 2017 grad night, described problems with Coach Jarin and the football boosters. Ms. Pedroza was president of the boosters in 2014 under Head Coach Mike Collins. At the time, Coach Jarin was defensive coordinator. Both of her sons, Zachary and Nick, played football, but Nick quit in 2014, so Ms. Pedroza stepped down as president.

She described an incident in which football apparel purchased by the boosters was missing and Coach Jarin told her he had given it away, which is not under his discretion. She emphasized she had nothing to do with the group of parents who complained to school officials about the coach.

“Honestly, I did not find out [about his termination] until yesterday,” she said Thursday morning. “I’m planning grad night. I have nothing to do with football.”

However, in her position as PFA president, she was involved in another instance when Coach Jarin reportedly disregarded booster protocol. All booster clubs in the school district must submit plans to the PFA in advance before they host fundraising events, in order to be covered under a blanket insurance policy the group holds. When the football program held its fundraising walk-a-thon this year, there was no plan for a dunk tank. According to Ms. Pedroza, Coach Jarin went forward with plans to have a dunk tank at the event, stating that he would personally sign a liability of release.

“I tried to contact Coco to tell him it’s not allowed. The day before the event, I talked to [principal] Brett [O’Connor] and he said the tank won’t be there,” Ms. Pedroza said. “I came at it from a booster point of view.  There are the procedures he needs to follow; if he can’t follow that, it’s a problem.”

She did admit that parents of current and former players had expressed concerns about Coach Jarin’s behavior, particularly at practice.

“He has good intentions, he is just not executing them the right way. He does cuss at them. He does break them down and make them feel bad,” Ms. Pedroza said.

Many of his players want Coach Jarin to be reinstated, with juniors Tommy Viat and Solo Tuliaupupu circulating a petition that now has more than 300 signatures, according to a co-head sports editor of the campus newspaper the Wolfpacket Nathan Rodriguez. Nathan, who was an intern at the COURIER last summer, was one of the first reporters to break the story.

Coach Jarin had a .500 winning percentage during the two years he led the program. There is no indication at this time that his removal has anything to do with the team’s 3-7 record this year.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com