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Payton Coach Allowed to Return After Controversial Canceled Game

By Mark Konkol | April 30, 2013 2:56pm | Updated on May 1, 2013 10:45am

ROSELAND — Walter Payton College Prep’s baseball coach will return to the dugout Tuesday after being temporarily benched by school officials, DNAinfo.com Chicago has learned.

Coach William Wittleder landed in hot water with Chicago Public Schools brass after saying he had to cancel Saturday night's game against Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep because parents, concerned about their kids' safety, refused to let their kids attend.

Brooks' coaches, including Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), said canceling the game out of fear was "shortsighted" and a decision made based on negative perceptions of the Roseland neighborhood.

After meeting with Chicago Public Schools boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett Monday to discuss the controversy over the cancellation, Wittleder was told not to make contact with his team until the school principal met with parents, a source said.

Wittleder, a teacher at Wells High School, missed Monday’s game to meet with Byrd-Bennett.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Wittleder's meeting with the schools chief was "positive." They talked about what happened, how to mend fences with Brooks, and made plans to reschedule the night game.

Originally, that showdown was set for Saturday, but it has been moved. The schools will now play ball on May 11 at 7 p.m.

A source familiar with Monday's meeting told DNAinfo.com that Wittleder was told not to meet with his team until Payton Principal Tim Devine met with the players' parents. That meeting didn't happen, but Wittleder was told he could coach Tuesday, the source said.

When asked Tuesday about Wittleder's status with the team, Carroll said she wasn't sure if the coach had been told not to have contact with the team, but said he would not be suspended.

“The coach is not going anywhere," Carroll said. "We don’t think he acted maliciously.”

Devine, whose father is former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, on Monday blamed the game's cancellation on poor leadership by Wittleder, who failed to rent a bus to bring the team to Brooks.

Also Monday, CPS officials said Wittleder had benched players for missing practice to take AP exams and visit college campuses. CPS also said the coach has had past conflicts with the parents of some players.

Wittleder was unavailable for comment Tuesday.