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Community rallies for Lehighton football announcer

A controversy over the public address announcer position for Lehighton Area High School varsity football games stems from the lack of a job description, Board President Jeremy Glaush said Monday night.

Kevin O’Donnell, who started splitting public address duties with his father in 2012 and took over full-time in 2014, said he was called into a meeting with the athletic director on April 30 and told the position would be opened.

“During that meeting with Kyle Spotts and High School Principal Sue Howland, I learned they were given a directive by Dr. Christina Fish (superintendent) through the board to open the position,” O’Donnell said. “I asked if the board gave a reason and was told they said I mispronounced names, didn’t announce sponsor information and didn’t turn the music off inside the stadium while the band was playing behind the press box.”

Many members of the Lehighton community expressed shock and anger at the news with former Lehighton Touchdown Club vice-president Autumn Abelovsky starting a petition to retain O’Donnell. Over 400 people signed the petition, which Abelovsky presented to the board Monday night.

“The board believes the situation was not handled in the way the administration told us,” Glaush said. “If the public had been paying attention to board actions over the last two years, they would have known we have been in the process of creating job descriptions. While going through these, it was noted the football announcer position had been paid numerous times by board action. It was also discovered that the position does not have a job description and does not exist in any contract. The board can’t locate when the position was voted upon. It is not legally or practically appropriate to continue paying an individual for services rendered without proper authorization.”

Glaush said the board intends to “create the position, advertise the position, interview candidates and vote on a candidate.”

Spotts said during Monday night’s meeting that he has never brought an announcer forward for hire in his 14 years as athletic director and was not aware of it happening before he was in the position.

“I was just going off past practice,” he said.

According to Spotts, the board has historically approved pay rates for game staff each June or July before the fall season starts.

“After 25 plus years in the press box during Friday night football, I couldn’t believe this was happening,” O’Donnell said. “My response, when asked, has been that I strongly believe this could be over a personal vendetta dating back to 2020.”

Glaush was adamant that is not the case.

“This situation was mishandled,” he said. “The board’s position on the football announcer has been due to the lack of proper authorization and had nothing to do with his performance. I saw the vendetta comment. I’m one member of a nine-member board. I doubt any member would follow me to have a vendetta taken care of. It’s not one person being singled out. It is being taken care of in the manner it’s supposed to be taken care of.”

Addressing the board Monday, Lehighton resident Ernie Heckman called the situation “a shame and a travesty.”

“I’ve been to many football games and there is not an announcer who doesn’t mispronounce a name or two,” Heckman said. “It’s a shame it is coming down to this. You have more serious problems spending taxpayers’ money than worrying about a football announcer.”

O’Donnell said the support he has received since his April 30 meeting has been overwhelming.

“I take the position very seriously and feel I go above and beyond what is required,” he said. “When time permits, I recognize the accomplishments of our fall sports teams and athletes, thank the media for their work. It’s not just me, it’s we, all of our gameday staff.”