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Horace Greeley Students Fight for Coach's Job

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - Chappaqua students and parents are fighting to make sure that technology teacher and wrestling coach Mike DeBellis will not be a casualty of budget cuts.

"Coach DeBellis is what we consider a very special kind of teacher," said parent Steve Wolz. "The kind of person that can make something that is challenging a lot of fun and make the students want to learn, have a strong desire to learn and a strong desire to work hard, which we think will resonate far beyond wrestling. It would be a mistake to let him go."

During Tuesday's technology budget breakdown session, the district revealed that it will be reducing DeBellis' position as a full-time employee to a part-time employee with no benefits. Superintendent Lyn McKay said the reduction is based on changes to the middle school schedule, which will see more of a focus on core classes.

"It doesn't make it easy, it's not what we like to do," McKay said at Tuesday night's board of education meeting. "But this is strictly position."

Dozens of students and wrestlers showed up in support of DeBellis at Tuesday night's meeting, urging district members to keep the coach.

"I've been wrestling under coach DeBellis' guidance for four straight years," said John Russo, a senior at Greeley. "During the season, he not only created a team, but also a family. Through his constant effort and love for the sport, he was able to bring us together. We strongly feel he deserves a full-time position."

According to Russo, the team posted a 3-7 record during his freshman year, which improved to 18-6 during his senior year.

With a change in middle school schedules forcing the reduction of technology staff, some parents at Tuesday night's meeting suggested using DeBellis in a different department.

"I don't know what they need to do and I respect the fact that they need to work on the budget. Clearly that's important and it's their job," said Wolz. "I just think that when you have somebody who is as high quality as Mike DeBellis, you need to hold onto him. You need to find a way."

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