Richard Como and Jim Donato were front and center at many of Coatesville Area Senior High's sporting events, including during the football squad's drive last season to the PIAA Class AAAA championship game.

Behind the scenes, as it turned out, the superintendent and athletic director were anything but ardent supporters of all things Coatesville.

Como, an educator for more than four decades, and Donato were just the opposite of what you expect from leaders. On school-issued cellphones, they traded racist, sexist, and lewd texts. Those texts demeaned colleagues, district staff, and students.

The two, unfortunately, were tabbed to serve as administrators of a school district that is one of Southeastern Pennsylvania's most racially diverse. In the texts, they disrespected minorities in no uncertain terms.

Racial slurs were repeatedly used, as were, in apparently referring to Coatesville head football coach Matt Ortega, a person of Hispanic descent, racial epithets such as "taco" and "burro."

"It's upsetting," Ortega, also a dean of students at the high school, said Wednesday afternoon. "But for me, personally, I've been down this road before."

Growing up in ethnically mixed Steelton, outside of Harrisburg, and formerly coaching at William Penn Senior High in York, Ortega is no stranger to the bigoted ways of some. But to have it come from colleagues no doubt strikes deep.

On the back burner, for now at least, is Coatesville's success of late on the gridiron. The Red Raiders fell a win short of claiming the Class AAAA state championship last season, losing to District 7's North Allegheny at HersheyPark Stadium.

Coatesville's boys' basketball and baseball programs have also made big noise recently. That, too, for the moment, is secondary to the issues raised by the outlandish conduct of Como and Donato.

As a parent of a freshman football player said Wednesday, "In today's day and age, it's unbelievable that something like this would happen. You're in a position of authority. How dare you?"

Ortega, 38, seems to have the right attitude when it comes, at least in sports, to moving forward and beginning the "healing process."

"As a team, we're going to try to help with that," the coach said. "We want to represent the school and Coatesville the best way possible."

The hope now is that the Coatesville school board can sort out the mess, make sensitivity training mandatory, and find the leaders with the work ethic and character befitting such positions.

For, as we all know now, Como and Donato dropped the ball when it came to standing firmly behind those who they were supposed to support. Big time.

Rick O'Brien:

Coatesville coach Matt Ortega says he's focused on football. B1.

Players react to scandal surrounding school officials. B1.