Ken Perrone will be inducted into the Salem High School Hall of Fame during an event June 27 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
It’s about time.
Perrone coached the Witches for 22 years, from 1973 to 1994, leading the team to five Northeastern Conference titles and two Super Bowl appearances. His 151 victories tie him with Bill Broderick for the most in school history.
That kind of record and commitment would lead most to believe that Perrone should have been in the Hall long ago. Instead, Perrone and the rest of the city were treated to almost two decades of bitter opposition from a Hall committee grasping tightly to past slights. A quote attributed to author James Lindast seems apt: “The smaller the stakes, the pettier the politics.”
At issue was Perrone’s actions during the 1994 teachers’ strike. Perrone, along with his entire coaching staff, was fired for continuing to coach the football team during the strike after being ordered not to by Mayor Neil Harrington and Superintendent Ed Curtin.
Perrone was a public school teacher at the time but had the support of the Salem Teachers Union to continue coaching.
“My only regret is that the strike happened during my tenure,” Perrone told reporter Jean DePlacido. “My loyalty was to my fellow teachers, and I marched with them. I never crossed their line, but the school days would be made up while the football games would be forfeited. I owed a loyalty to my players. If it happened again tomorrow, I’d do the same thing.”
For years after the strike, Perrone was kept out of the Hall by a committee that included several members, including Curtin, who were still sore over the 1994 controversy.
Perrone, who also had successful coaching careers in Maine and at Salem State College, received several more honors during that time, including inductions into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and the Massachusetts Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Credit for the change of heart goes to City Councilor Tom Furey, who advocated for Perrone’s induction for years, and to the School Committee, which last year voted to expand the size of the Hall of Fame Committee, add a number of women and set term limits.
The controversy over Perrone’s decision to keep coaching in 1994 was annoying to Salem officials at the time. But holding a decades-long grudge, even after the rest of the city had moved on, was even more embarrassing.
Here’s hoping the issue is finally at rest.