Damien dismisses numerous educators, athletic staffers amid coronavirus uncertainty

Damien dismisses numerous educators, athletic staffers amid coronavirus uncertainty
A sign on the campus of Damien Memorial School in Honolulu. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Leadership at Damien Memorial School in Honolulu have gutted the institution’s athletic department and have either fired or reassigned numerous other educators, including athletics director Rudy Alejo and head varsity football coach Eddie Klaneski, sources tell Hawaii News Now.

The exact number of Damien personnel who have been relieved of their duties is not yet known, but multiple sources close to the school say as many as 20 employees across different departments may have been let go.

Budgetary concerns and the uncertainty surrounding high school athletics given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are among the reasons for the dismissals within the athletic department, Damien officials told Hawaii News Now in a statement.

“Given all the guidance that is being provided by authorities on the reopening of schools, all of which indicates a probable change in the number of teams that will be fielded, the length of each season and the presence or absence of spectators, it seemed in the best interest of all involved in our athletic program and of the school, to inform some coaches that at the present time a position is not available,” said Brother Brian Walsh, the president of Damien Memorial School.

It’s not yet known whether the positions Walsh eliminated ― in what appears to have been one of his final acts as school president ― will be reinstated.

The firing of coaches in sports that would ordinarily compete in the fall and winter seasons, including Klaneski, would appear to indicate that Walsh either believed that sports would not be played or that Damien did not intend on participating in them if they were ― at least at the beginning of the school year.

But the staff dismissals were not limited to the athletic department, the only personnel decisions that Walsh’s statement referred to. School sources tell Hawaii News Now that teachers who are not affiliated with the athletic department have also been relieved of their duties.

Walsh appears to have informed educators and coaches of their dismissals by mail.

“At the present time we do not have a position for you in the new school year that begins on August 3, 2020,” reads a portion of the letter, which was signed by Brother Walsh.

The letter cites a ‘sizable tuition shortfall for this year’ and the impacts of the coronavirus on next year’s school protocols as the reason for the dismissals.

Damien leadership declined to provide a list of education and athletic department positions that were impacted by firings, citing privacy guidelines.

“School policy is that personnel decisions concerning full time staff members are never discussed,” Walsh said.

Walsh did comment specifically on the reassignment of Alejo, the school’s now-former athletic director. Alejo has spent more than 40 years at the school and is believed to be among the institution’s longest-tenured employees.

“If the duties of the office were to be reduced from full to part time, in deference to Mr. Alejo’s long years of service, it was felt wise to have him return to his full time teaching position,” said Walsh.

A source close to Klaneski, a former University of Hawaii football player who has served as the school’s varsity football coach since 2011, says he was not retained by the school. He began teaching at his alma mater in 2004 and was an assistant varsity football coach prior to taking over the program, while also serving in an administrative role in the school’s front office.

This story will be updated.

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