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John Essex football coach contract not renewed

John Essex High School will look for a head football coach for the second time in less than a year after choosing to not renew Lenoise Richey’s contract following just one season with the program.

Richey, who accepted the position last summer after being dismissed as head coach at Livingston High, went 3-7 in his only season with the Hornets.

“I guess when it comes to luck, I’m not the luckiest person in the world,” Richey, who also coached girls basketball for Essex, said. “The Livingston situation didn’t bother me too much, but this one right here rocked me a little bit. I sat down with the superintendent and the principal (before accepting the job) and they told me they were looking for somebody who was going to sell out and be part of the community. I made the commitment to them and after one year, I got this.”

Richey said the decision came as a complete surprise to him, citing a conversation he had with outgoing John Essex principal Loretta McCoy only weeks earlier.

“I stood in that office three weeks ago and I asked Mrs. McCoy if I had anything to worry about and she told me, ‘Coach, you know you are going to be the last one to leave.'”

“I have not been written up or called in for any conferences or anything,” Richey furthered. “When they first hired me, they told me they don’t expect me to win at John Essex. I told them I was going to win at John Essex.”

Luke Hallmark, superintendent of the Marengo County Board of Education, declined to offer insight into the reasons behind Richey’s dismissal, stating that the board does not comment on non-tenured employees. However, Hallmark did offer some criteria that will dictate the search for the school’s next coach.

“We’re looking for somebody who works well within the community, somebody who gets there early and stays late,” Hallmark said. “We’re looking for somebody who is a good role model for those boys.”

The move comes on the heels of the board procuring a $4 million grant that promises to change the face of John Essex, beginning with the replacement of McCoy.

“We want to look for an administrator first and then (the head football coach) position next,” Hallmark said. “It is a transformation model. It’s just a new look for the school.”

Essex has faced its share of adversity over the last year. The school has endured one of its students being taken into custody for setting fire to various areas of the campus and another who was arrested in connection with a Feb. 2008 homicide. Even with all of the issues Essex has faced, Hallmark said he believes in what the institution could be.

“It’s a community school,” Hallmark said. “We want to make sure all the kids in the community attend John Essex. It’s a school that is going to promote education. All the high school kids will have laptop computers. We feel like it has a world of opportunity.”

Richey’s 3-7 record brought the Hornets’ mark up to 6-24 over the last three seasons. The school failed to renew head coach Fentress Means in 2009 after he had completed two years with the team. Hallmark said the board hopes to have a principal in place by the end of June and will then turn its attention to the search for a coach.