Lady Panthers players, many with tears streaming down their faces, walked out of a Panther Valley school board meeting Thursday after the board voted 6-1, with one not voting, to open up the girls basketball position.
Several parents, who had accompanied the girls, were clearly angry over the move. One woman spat an invective at a board member "Hope you're happy, b," she said while others loudly lambasted the board as they left the meeting room.
Board members Michelle Markovich, Anthony DeMarco, Richard Zabroski, Roy Angst, Bill Hunsicker and board President Jeff Markovich all voted to open the position. Board member Irene Genther voted against the motion. Board member David Hiles was absent, and Koreen Nalesnik said she was not voting because her "forte is education. I really haven't been to the basketball games. I don't follow the sports. I only have information that I've been told by people."
The agenda item was that, "on the recommendation of the high school principal (Joseph Gunnels) and the athletic and activities director (Kristin Black), the board of education approve to open the head girls basketball position for the 2013-2014 school year."
Before the vote, three people spoke in Wank's defense. Jeff Markovich had asked that only one person representing each of the two groups, the players and the parents, speak on their group's behalf.
Player Madison Blasko praised Wank for the efforts he made to help the girls do their best.
"This year, he took us to Districts for the first time in 10 years," she said. "He also helped us accomplish many things, such as beating Blue Mountain, which the PV girls haven't done in 37 years."
Madison told the board that the "majority of the team likes the coach, and he should be given the opportunity to stay."
Parent Herb Whildin
"I know it's an adult decision, but look at them," he said, indicating the players. "They all here. They all want him. Can so many people be wrong?"
Whildin said "you're always going to have differences of opinion. Changing coaches won't change it. The parents have to get along. The parents have to be adults. Getting rid of Coach Wank will make it worse, because you're going to have a bigger divide among everybody."
Another man, who did not identify himself, said the majority of players and parents supported Wank, and that the board is obligated to "do what's best for the majority, not the minority, or people with a personal agenda."
Wank, who formerly held that position in the Weatherly Area School District, has coached at Panther Valley for four years. His career record at Panther Valley is 30-58 (. 341 winning percentage). This past season, Panther Valley was 11-11 during the regular season, and qualified for the District 11 playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season. The Panthers lost to Tamaqua in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Panthers' yearly records have been: 11-12 in 2012-13; 10-12 in 2011-12; 4-17 in 2010-11; and 5-17 in 2009-10.
The school board's action came almost exactly a year after the first attempt to open his position.
On April 12, 2012, the board voted 6-3 to keep Wank. In that vote, DeMarco, Hiles, Nalesnik, Zabroski, Genther and Hunsicker voted to keep Wank.
Angst, Michelle Markovich and Jeff Markovich voted to open the position.