Weston Coach Mike Hvizdo gets his job back

Coach Mike Hvizdo is back. —Vivian Simons photo

Coach Mike Hvizdo is back. —Vivian Simons photo

This story is updated from a previous story last week.

Weston High School head boys basketball coach Mike Hvizdo has returned to lead the team in the state Class M tournament this week.

A press release issued on Friday, March 1, by the school district, Superintendent Colleen Palmer, Weston High School Principal Lisa Wolak, Weston High School Athletic Director Mark Berkowitz, and Mr. Hvizdo said they were pleased to announce they had reached an agreement and Mr. Hvizdo would be returning to serve as head coach.

Mr. Hvizdo, who stepped down approximately a month ago after it was discovered he took part in a short comedy film that was deemed “inappropriate for a leader of kids” by school officials, was reinstated on Saturday, March 2.

The release states, “Through further discussion, we have worked through the issues surrounding Mr. Hvizdo’s resignation, which he has been permitted to rescind, and have clarified the district’s expectations concerning his performance. We welcome Mr. Hvizdo back to our coaching staff, and we wish him and the boys basketball team every success for the future.”

In a letter to the Weston community, Mr. Hvizdo said in part, “I am truly grateful for my players, the parents, my family and friends, my coaching staff, my advisors, my business staff, my customers, the press, the Weston community and all the people across the country that have reached out in support of my reinstatement, especially my wife who has been my rock through all of this.”

He added, “I would also like to thank the administration for my reinstatement, especially Athletic Director Mark Berkowitz, who has taken me back with open arms.”

The film in question, Forbidden Fruit, is a nine-minute black-and-white comedy written and directed by Steve Moramarco, who has also worked as an assistant to Jack Black.

Although the video is sexually explicit and contains vulgar language, there is no nudity. It does not involve any illegal activity.

A letter to basketball players and parents by Ms. Wolak and Mr. Berkowitz dated Feb. 10 explained that it became known to the school community that the film was posted online and “its existence compromises Mr. Hvizdo’s ability to continue to serve as a coach with Weston High School.”

As a favor to Mr. Hvizdo, Mr. Moramarco said in a recent blog post, he removed the video from public view after Mr. Hvizdo lost his job. But on Friday, the same day Mr. Hvizdo was told he could return to the Weston basketball court, Mr. Moramarco posted a new link to the film at moremarkable.blogspot.com.

Parental support

After being told why Mr. Hvizdo was no longer coaching, many parents came forward expressing support for Mr. Hvizdo and urging the administration to reconsider its decision.

Approximately 100 people attended the Weston Board of Education’s monthly meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, in the middle school library.

More than a dozen spoke during a 90-minute public comment session. Some questioned how the situation was handled. Others spoke about the content of the video in question. All spoke in favor of Mr. Hvizdo.

“The administration has single-handedly decided that it is the morality police since clearly they do not believe we can police our own children in this manner,” said Terry Clevenger, whose son plays eighth grade basketball. “As a community steeped in artistic heritage with a rich history in expression of art, as well as home to many actors, producers and directors, Weston should be further away from this type of repression.”

The day after that meeting, Superintendent Palmer said that after hearing from the public, she did think the district could have done a better job providing more detailed information on the day of separation.

“There was valid criticism made about our communication on this matter. It is something we are looking at and are taking to heart,” she said Feb. 26.

National TV

The story garnered national — and even international — attention.

Many news and Internet outlets opined about several parents’ allegations that the Forbidden Fruit video was sent anonymously to the school district by a single disgruntled parent. No one ever claimed responsibility for alerting the school to the existence of the film, and school administrators declined to comment on how they learned about it.

Mr. Hvizdo appeared on New York’s CBS Channel 2 News Thursday night, Feb. 28, and said he was meeting with attorneys in an attempt to get reinstated.

He also appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday, March 1, to plead his case in front of a national audience. Mr. Hvizdo told The Forum he wanted his job back, something he reiterated on Good Morning America, where he also said he has always thought of the boys on his team “like my sons.”

Later that afternoon, he got his wish.

“With coach Hvizdo’s reinstatement, everyone is a winner,” said Jed Ferdinand, one of Mr. Hvizdo’s attorneys. “The coach gets to return to the job that he loves, the players get their coach back and the community gets to put this episode behind them. We are all thrilled with the result and look forward to a long and successful career at Weston for coach Hvizdo.”

In his own release, Mr. Hvizdo said, “I couldn’t be happier to be reinstated as head coach of Weston High School boys basketball. This has been a tough few weeks for everyone and I want to thank all those involved — including players, parents, friends and family and especially my wife Carissa, who has been my rock — for all of their love and support. It’s time to move forward and I am excited to get back on the sidelines with my team.”

The Weston boys basketball team played its first state tournament game on Monday, March 4, defeating University School of Hartford 54-43.

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