Jason Jackson said Thursday he believes he was run out of his job as Deering High’s varsity football coach because of a disgruntled parent and a lack of support from Deering Principal Gregg Palmer and Athletic Director Melanie Craig.

“That’s exactly what I feel like but they’re never going to say it’s just one parent,” said Jackson, who coached Deering the past three seasons. “But this parent is why I’m in the situation I’m in. To say this parent had no bearing on their decision, it’s false.”

Jackson first made his claims in a Facebook post Wednesday, shortly after being told his contract would not be renewed.

Jason Jackson

Craig said Thursday she could not comment on why Jackson was dismissed. Instead she referred to a prepared statement signed by Palmer:

“After every season, in every sport, we reflect on the season and what we need to do to continue to improve,” Palmer’s statement said. “After the recent football season, we did this with our (f)ootball program here at Deering. As a result of this assessment of the program, we have decided not to renew Coach Jackson’s contract as head coach for the 2018 season.

“Coach Jackson has helped to revitalize the Deering HS Football program. He has brought excitement and energy to the program and we are grateful for his contributions. We wish him the best in his future pursuits.”

Jackson said he ended up being fired because he refused to resign.

“If you resign, that kind of silences you,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to lie to these kids when I’ve got probably 98 percent of them that don’t want to see me go. I didn’t want them to think I bailed on them.”

Jackson said he was told Thursday that he could no longer be a volunteer assistant basketball coach for his son’s seventh-grade team at Lincoln Middle School.

“Hey, they’re mad at me,” Jackson said.

Jackson took to the Deering Rams Football Facebook page Wednesday, letting followers know he’d been “relieved of my coaching duties,” adding, “I was let go because of 1 parent. Admin will say it’s for other reasons. Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya.”

Jackson said the parent, whom he would not name, began questioning his decisions in the third week of the 2017 season. “The parent had complaints and carried on with it the rest of the year. It was about playing time, positions, and stuff that frankly I don’t have to explain to him or her at all,” Jackson said, adding that he advised his administration of the situation.

The vacant varsity football position will be posted soon on the Portland Schools website, Craig said. The position of varsity football coach in the Portland school system was paid a stipend of $8,227 in 2015.

When Jackson was hired in March 2015, he became Deering’s fourth football coach in a 28-month span.

Jon Gallant coached the Rams for two seasons (2011 and 2012) before leaving to take the Massabesic job. Gallant’s replacement, Scott Parsons, resigned after being ejected from the fourth game of the 2013 season because of a comment made to a game official. Matt Riddell took over as the interim coach and was hired as the varsity coach for 2014. Riddell resigned before the 2014 Thanksgiving game under the cloud of an alleged incident that was brought to the attention of the NAACP.

Jackson, 43, moved to Portland from Seattle nearly 10 years ago, settling with his wife and two young sons close to Deering High.

“I’m all about Deering. I applied for this job three times,” said Jackson, who works with at-risk youth as an educational technician in the South Portland school system. “I applied to it when the house was on fire. I ran into a burning building because I had no desire to be anywhere else. For it to end up like this, it’s a shame.”

In his first season, Jackson led the Rams to a 6-2 regular-season record before losing a playoff game to perennial power Bonny Eagle, 20-19.

“From the first meeting you could tell he was passionate about not just the game but the kids in that room,” said Raffaele Salamone, a 2017 Deering graduate and now a freshman defensive lineman at the University of Maine. “He would always come out and bring that energy and get everyone going. Regardless of wins and losses, he’s still going to care about you.”

The Rams slipped to 3-7 and 2-8 the past two seasons. In Jackson’s final game as Deering’s coach, the Rams beat Portland 22-20 in the Thanksgiving Day game – their first win in the series under Jackson.

Jackson received support on Facebook from the state’s coaching fraternity and many of his former players and their parents.

“Any FB program would be lucky to have you! Coaches around the state watched the energy you brought to that program!” wrote Yarmouth Coach Jason Veilleux. “You restored it. They will not be able to replace you.”

Before coming to Deering, Jackson was an assistant coach at Cape Elizabeth under Aaron Filieo.

“When you have someone like Jason, who at his core is an incredible human being, it’s just strange to me that you would willingly lose him because he will be hard to replace in terms of what he brings to that community, his ability to mentor and care for and work with the kids,” Filieo said.

And if Jackson’s dismissal was in reaction to one parent’s complaints?

“If that’s the case, that’s inexcusable,” Filieo said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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