Maine West coach drops fight for job, district says

The Maine West High School soccer coach at the center of hazing allegations has agreed to withdraw his challenge to the district's decision to seek his dismissal, district officials said Monday night.

In exchange, the district will fulfill its obligations under the Illinois School Code and provide Michael Divincenzo with an attorney to represent him as he and the district face litigation over those allegations, said officials with Maine Township High School District 207.

The agreement, approved by all parties, effectively ends Divincenzo's employment with the district.

By dropping his hearing request with the state board of education, the district stands to save "the substantial cost of dismissal proceedings and, more importantly, will avoid either party having to call students to testify for or against Mr. Divincenzo in those very difficult and lengthy proceedings," school board President Sean Sullivan said in a statement read at the end of Monday night's board meeting.

In December, school board members unanimously approved a resolution suspending Divincenzo without pay while pursuing his dismissal. In the resolution, school officials claim Divincenzo witnessed varsity soccer players hazing younger players and "congratulated" one alleged victim before welcoming him to the varsity team.

The district has been mired in controversy since allegations of hazing first surfaced last fall on the Maine West boys soccer and baseball teams. A lawsuit, filed on behalf of alleged victims, claims soccer coaches and school and district officials allowed a culture of hazing that led to incidents of sodomy and beatings of younger team members.

The Cook County state's attorney's office said Monday that its investigation of those hazing allegations is still pending.

In late January, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services determined that two unnamed staff members at Maine West abused and neglected children.

This winter, the district also moved to fire soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez, who has appealed the board's decision with the state board of education.

Rodriguez and Divincenzo have denied any wrongdoing, according to Des Plaines police reports.

The district agrees to continue providing Divincenzo with health insurance coverage, estimated to cost the district about $600 a month, through Jan. 31, 2014. That coverage could be reduced, Sullivan said, if Divincenzo finds employment with insurance coverage during that time.

Sullivan said that date is the "minimum period of time he would have been covered if the dismissal proceedings had continued."

"The board has determined that this agreement is in the best educational and financial interests of the school district," Sullivan said.

jbullington@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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