Parents rally to save job of Portland area athletic director
Parents and alumni of Roosevelt High School are rallying behind the school's athletic director, who is at risk of losing his job. Sanjay Bedi has been placed on leave from work since January.
Bedi's current employment status and the reason for the leave of absence have not been confirmed by the school district, but Bedi confirmed he was placed on leave for allegedly breaking COVID-19 protocol in regard to student athletes and practices.
A group of parents has been advocating with district administrators for his return.
"Sanjay was placed on administrative leave because he allowed coaches to participate in practices before completing all of their required training," an online petition for Bedi's return states. "The pandemic has created an environment where expectations and deadlines have been confusing and ever-changing. Sanjay has always been fully cleared and was present at all practices, except when on family leave to take care of his dad in India."
Those supporting Bedi note the threat of termination comes as schools are reopening and high school sports have resumed.
Roosevelt Principal KD Parman declined to comment on Bedi's leave, deferring comment to a school district spokesperson. The district declined to comment beyond confirming the athletic director's ongoing leave.
Sources familiar with the matter say Bedi now faces the possibility of termination, after the Portland Interscholastic League — the city's high school athletic conference — recommended his firing.
The Portland Association of Teachers, which represents school employees such as Bedi, has the option to appeal his termination. If negotiations fail, it's likely the Portland Public Schools Board of Education will make the final vote to determine whether Bedi retains his athletic director position.
When reached by phone, Bedi said he couldn't say much about the matter, but confirmed the uncertainty surrounding his position.
"It looks like it's going to drag out," Bedi said of the decision process.
Bedi has spent roughly 23 years working in education, the last four of which have been at Roosevelt. Prior to his stint there, he worked for 17 years at Parkrose High School.
The group pushing for the athletic director's return argues the punishment for the infraction is "extreme."
"The severity of the response triggers concerns that something else is going on at the (Portland Interscholastic League). … families, students, staff and coaches have received no communication from the district about this situation," the petition states.
Aside from the online petition and letters sent to PPS administrators, supporters also have rallied outside the school with signs to show support for Bedi.
"I am a pretty active volunteer at Roosevelt, and I've worked extensively with Sanjay," Sarah Carter Adams said. "His dedication to Roosevelt is full and total."
Carter Adams described Bedi as living in the school's neighborhood and even driving a car that matches the school's team colors.
"It's not just about the athletes and them winning games," Carter Adams said. "He's working actively to help students have better attendance and have their grades go up. He's at every clean-up event. He's an integral part of the Roosevelt community."
Steve Lanigan, a fellow parent of a Roosevelt student, wrote a letter of support for Bedi in January, emphasizing the improved daily attendance and grades among student athletes under Bedi's watch.
"I'm happy to say that my daughter has excelled in her chosen sports, but I'm especially proud of the emphasis Sanjay has placed on doing well in the classroom," Lanigan wrote.
Carter Adams said that, in this case, the transgression doesn't fit the punishment.
"He's been really transparent," she said. "He's made some mistakes, but none of them should result in his termination."
Requests for comment from the Portland Interscholastic League were not returned.
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