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BLAIRSVILLE-SALTSBURG: School board bars volunteer football coach

by JEREMY HARTLEY on August 22, 2013 10:50 AM

BURRELL TOWNSHIP — Despite a strong showing of support by the football team and community members, the Blairsville-Saltsburg school board on Wednesday voted down the approval of Conemaugh Township supervisor Bill Petro as a volunteer coach for the district’s football program.

Petro brought his case before the board during the public comment period, explaining that he has been coaching youth sports since 1981 and has been involved with high school football since 1991.

Petro was approved as a volunteer coach for the last two years with recommendations by both the athletic director and football head coach.

“(People in) paid positions have not gone through what I have to volunteer,” he said.

This year, however, he was made to resubmit his certifications for volunteer work amid what he claims is a vendetta against him for backing a board member in a recent election. He also claimed an agenda against him for apparently costing the district $150,000 in relation to the 2009 purchase of land in Saltsburg to develop an elementary school campus.

“I believe there’s a personal agenda to get rid of me for other reasons not associated with football and my coaching abilities,” Petro said.

Before the vote, board member Beverly Caranese made this statement: “Mrs. Hall makes reference to a vendetta, revenge, and as someone who ran with Holly, obviously the fingers are pointing at me. I do want to say, I don’t run my life on vendettas or revenge. I would spend my life doing that if I did. In the last few years, I’ve been thrown under the bus by a lot of people.

“But I will say this; I vote my conscience, I vote what’s right. My moral compass may be different than some people’s, so that’s what I vote for. I vote what I feel in my heart, what I feel is right. So, any reference to me, whether I vote for Mr. Petro, whether I don’t vote for Mr. Petro, it’s not about revenge. It’s not about being vindictive or I have a vendetta. … I stood up and fought for my community and for every football player here for many years of my life, and I resent it very much that you would say that’s how I run my life. Because I don’t. It doesn’t work that way for me,” she said, beginning to tear up.

Petro’s approval was shot down on a vote of 6-3. Voting against keeping Petro were Caranese, George Rowley, Mary Whitfield, Linda Brown, Anthony Canzano and B. Edward Smith. Voting to keep him were Holly Gibson, Rick Harper and Holly Hall.

“I don’t know how the board could have voted me down when I had all the players here,” Petro said after the meeting.

He said he still has faith in the players to do the right thing.

“Maybe this will help them be a little stronger,” he said. “I’m hoping they don’t take the wrong attitude and distrust or anything.”

“He’s just a selfless person who always has our best interests at heart,” said Steve Richards, Blairsville senior and member of the football team, “and we don’t think it would be right for him to not be around us for this 2013 football season.”

Board President Smith will welcome the district’s teachers back on Friday and students back on Monday. Teachers and staff will be going through training sessions on Friday, particularly child abuse-recognition and anti-bullying sessions.

The Indiana County Technology Center is looking to donate 10 acres of land for the development of the Challenger Program in Indiana County, according to Smith.

The next step is to seek out Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding to seed the program.

The Challenger Program is made up of regional science learning facilities where students can expand their math and science skills.

The Pre-K Counts program at Blairsville is ready to begin, according to Assistant Superintendent Ian Magness.

The classrooms are ready, which he described as “the nicest classrooms in the district,” and the program has a soft start date of Sept. 18.

Magness encouraged parents who received a postcard from the district to fill out an application and see if they are eligible for the program.

At a tax committee meeting earlier in the day, Smith explained that Berkheimer Tax Administration had completed an audit related to income tax collected for 2012. Audit numbers will be distributed to the townships along with the amount the town should have received as income tax.

“It behooves you and all the township supervisors and borough officials to look at that and make sure it’s correct,” he said.

Burrell Township resident Ryan Maher expressed his concern for security within the school, relating Tuesday’s incident in Decatur, Ga., to the need for better security in the district. He referred to state Senate Bill 10, a amendment that could provide funds for schools to hire armed security personnel.

In other business, the board:

• Will allow participation of students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey through the Commission of Crime and Delinquency.

• Hired the following teachers: Heather Kress, $52,345; Ashley Helgert, $52,545; Kaitlyn Stanoski, $50,882; and Amanda Steel, $52,345.

• Recalled furloughed employees Kimberly Knupp and Lorraine Henry, effective Wednesday. Both were restored to full-time status.

• Approved these long-term substitutes: Mark DeMarines, BMHS health and physical education, for the school year; and Jessica Forman, SMHS math, during the leave of absence of Megan Decker.

• Hired Natasha Bonatch as a full-time custodian for BHS.

• Accepted resignation requests for Jessica Pritts, BSSD Virtual Academy/Alternative Education and guidance counselor; and Lacie Cook, SMHS learning support teacher, with effective dates to be determined by the administration.

• Approved leaves of absence for Bonnie Bell, SES instructional aide, intermittently for the 2013-14 year; Wanda Cunningham, attendance officer, intermittently; and Courtney Schert, BMHS art teacher, to begin Dec. 1 through about Feb. 24.

• Approved the following volunteer coaches: Tascha Morris, BMHS cheering; Andrew Anderson, SMHS football; and Bryan Gould, BMHS football.

• Approved the following field trip requests: Saltsburg Elementary School, fifth grade, Fort Necessity in Farmington, Oct. 1, and Fort Ligonier, Oct. 10; and SES kindergarten to Schramm’s Farm on Oct. 25. All trips are at no cost to the district.

• Approved participation in the annual Notice of Special Education Services newspaper publication as a cooperative program with ARIN IU 28 and five other school districts for $140.

• Recognized the Saltsburg Football Boosters, Junior/Senior Basketball Boosters and Competitive Majorettes as official support organizations for the school.

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