Former Pierson/Bridgehampton varsity girls volleyball head coach Donna Fischer says she resigned from her coaching position and never took a leave of absence, as district officials had originally described her departure.
Sag Harbor School Superintendent Jeff Nichols confirmed last week that Fischer had submitted a letter of resignation on September 24, which was then officially accepted by the Board of Education at its meeting that following Monday, September 27. He declined to discuss circumstances of the resignation or to comment further.
Fischer said she resigned mainly because she felt she was constantly being harassed by a particular family that included one of her own players. Without naming the family or player, Fischer said the situation had reached a boiling point, and she felt she could no longer do her job as head coach.
After writing her resignation letter, Fischer coached the team one last time on September 24, then told her team after its 3-1 victory at home over Ross that it was her last game. Pierson hasn’t won a match since and is 3-6 in League VI, 3-8 overall, as of October 7.
Fischer added that one of the people who she said was harassing her also bullied and verbally assaulted one of her former players, Olivia Cassone, a 2020 graduate of Pierson, at one of the first matches of the season in early September. Cassone confirmed as much and said she felt threatened enough to file an incident report with the Sag Harbor Village Police Department directly following the incident, although no charges were ever filed. She also declined to identify the person she said harassed her.
“I took the team out in the hallway, as I always did before every match, and [Olivia] came flying through into my arms, crying, shaking. It rattled the whole team before the match,” Fischer said. “The rest of the season, I was taunted.”
Fischer said she was constantly being questioned by administrators on what she said was a weekly basis. “Did you use this tone? Did you use that tone?” Fischer said she was asked by administrators in those conversations. “I was no longer allowed to coach. I was no longer allowed to be who I am. I can’t walk on eggshells.
“And the most disappointing thing was that I’m telling the administration I’m being bullied, and they’re questioning me instead of supporting me,” she added. “It’s very hard to focus on coaching and focus on what needs to be done when you’re so worried about walking on eggshells. Then they told me that they might have to have administration sit behind the bench — which they did.”
Fischer entered her 15th year in Pierson’s volleyball program this fall, her ninth as the varsity head coach. She has worked at Sag Harbor Elementary School since 2003, where she is currently a teaching assistant for third grade teacher Julie O’Brien, and she has continued in that role.
Fischer wound up taking over the varsity program from Stacey Springer in 2012 and eventually led it to its first two appearances in the state tournament, first in 2017 then again in 2019.
“The thing for me is, I did so much for the program,” she said. “I still talk to a lot of the girls, like Sam [Cox] and Olivia, who had such a positive and awesome experience where I felt so proud. I don’t feel so proud now.
“To work that hard for the past 15 years … it’s not even about varsity, it’s about the whole program,” Fischer added. “Of course, not everybody loves you, but I think most people appreciate what I did for the program.”