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Palmerton residents want answers in dismissal of basketball coach

Published January 25. 2011 05:02PM

A decision by Palmerton Area School District to replace its high school boys basketball coach with an interim earlier this month has raised concerns.

The school board on Monday fielded inquiries from residents about the status of Mike Snyder, who began the season as the team's coach. Snyder guided the team to a 5-4 record.

On Jan. 13, the district issued a statement after games were postponed against Saucon Valley and Notre Dame of Green Pond that assistant coach Mark Maholick would serve as interim coach.

Snyder was hired in June of 2008 to replace Ridge Hughes, who had coached the team the previous two seasons. Snyder also coached the team in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.

Resident Tony Papay asked the board whether it had zero tolerance with regard to coaching or teachers; more specifically, the high school boys basketball coach.

But, board President Barry Scherer told Papay the information he sought was a personnel matter.

Resident Spike Furry said he thought the board in the past had approved a policy for zero tolerance that all coaches had to follow.

However, Superintendent Carol Boyce said there was a "general expectation of appropriate behavior" that coaches are expected to follow.

Resident Terry Mertz said his son is a member of the basketball team who was bullied, and asked whether the board was aware of the situation.

Scherer said that "according to due process, the individual has requested a hearing."

Solicitor Joshua Shulman, who filled in for board solicitor David Shulman, told the audience "there is a proceeding under way for due process."

Mertz said he's asked the district for help with the situation, but added he hasn't received any.

Resident Josann Harry then asked the board what the proper way to let the board know of a concern is, to which Shulman referred her to board policy 906.

"Personnel matters are never discussed in open board meetings," Shulman said.

Resident Charlene Furry said she believes there are concerns that not all the school board members want to hear everyone's opinion.

Resident Mike Falcone told the board it's decision two years ago to hire Snyder has backfired.

"I actually feel bad for a lot of people sitting in this room, because I think they've lost a little bit of faith in some of the people making the decisions," Falcone said. "Two years ago, there was strong opposition; now it's two years later, and it's an embarrassment to everyone you hear."

Falcone said the residents "want some answers", and added that "we need to have faith that the right decisions need to be made because there's been a mistake."

"There are seniors out there who did not play basketball this year; right now something has to be corrected," he said. "You are supposed to be representing us."

Falcone said it's his hope "that the public and the school district have enough faith in the board once they hear the facts presented."

"Each board member has to vote not only what's on their conscience, but what they hear," he said. "It's a hand we've been dealt that we need to play."

Also on Monday, the board heard from a parent who said she enrolled her three children in the district last week after she had been cyber-schooling them.

Resident Beth Garambone said she was dismayed to learn that the district had denied the enrollment of her daughter into kindergarten.

Garambone said that she contacted a representative from the State Department of Education, who told her that the district has no policy that says it has to take her, or that it does not.

"There is no policy stating the district cannot accept her," Garambone said.

However, Boyce said policy #201 states that all kindergarten students must be age 5 by Sept. 1 the year they attend kindergarten.

"I told her I was referring this to the solicitor because the only policy the district has is very clear regarding birth date age," Boyce said. "I must still rely on policy 201; I can't change those policies."

Garambone told Boyce she was aware of that policy, and that PDE has clarified that the policy is for new students, and that her daughter is a transfer student.

"This is a transfer student," Garambone said. "You are not prohibited from taking her."

Scherer told Garambone the board will ask its solicitor his opinion and get back to her.

In the meantime, Garambone said her daughter is missing out on her education.

"Now she is not registered anywhere and wants to know why she's not in school," she said. "This district withdrew her, I didn't."

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