LISBON - The position of assistant varsity boys basketball coach at Beaver Local High School remains unfilled following the comments of an upset parent at Monday evening's meeting of the Beaver Local School Board.
Members of the board declined to vote on the re-hiring of former assistant coach Jeff Campbell following an address made by Don Smith of East Liverpool during the public portion of the meeting.
Smith told the board that an incident involving his son Ryan and Coach Campbell in January was discriminatory toward Ryan, who has a hearing impairment, and merited Campbell being denied his position on the coaching staff.
Smith said that during a disagreement at a practice session last January, the coach had made a derogatory remark about his son's hearing loss when Ryan had his back turned to him and forced him to sit out the remainder of practice. "I am fine with a coach yelling at my son when he is coaching him, but yelling a discriminatory comment like that is appalling," he said. He said that no apologies were ever made to himself or his son, and that Ryan had played in a variety of sports throughout his years in school without any similar incidents with a coach ever occurring. Ryan, who graduated in June, now plays football at Geneva College.
Following a meeting with BLHS athletic director Eric Lowe and school principal Tom Cunningham, Smith said they agreed that the comment was unacceptable and he was assured the matter would be handled appropriately. "I was led to believe that Jeff Campbell would not be rehired," Smith said. When he discovered that Campbell's name was on the board's agenda among names of supplemental contracts being voted on for the new school year, however, he went to Superintendent Kent Polen for an explanation.
He claims that Polen stated, "We've all said things we shouldn't have said."
Board member hired
By RICHARD SBERNA
LISBON - At an executive session meeting held Tuesday evening at Beaver Local High School, the Beaver Local Board of Trustees voted to name Gary Eisenhart of Glenmoor as the newest member of the board.
Eisenhart will take the board seat vacated by Brad Buchheit in September. Buchheit said he was leaving the board for business and family reasons.
Eisenhart is a Beaver Local graduate and has three children, two who have graduated and one who is currently at BLHS.
Eisenhart said that he felt very fortunate to have been chosen for the seat, which is something he had considered pursuing for a number of years. "It just sort of presented itself at the right time," he said.
Describing his motivation for the position, he said, "I think everybody needs to give back, and I hope to give back."
"The example Superintendent Polen is setting is, we can say things we shouldn't say not only once but twice without consequences." He rhetorically asked what if it had been a racial slur, "because the words you can barely hear as it is to a hearing impaired child is just the same."
Following the board meeting, Polen said that meetings with Lowe were held at the time regarding the complaint. "We had several discussions about the situation, and we agreed that we would abide by Mr. Smith's wishes not to discuss this with the basketball coaches during the season." According to Polen, Smith felt that pursuing the matter at that time could have a negative impact on his son within the team. Rather, it was addressed with head boys basketball coach Jake Walgate during the post-season coaches' evaluation.
Polen said no decision regarding Campbell's status was made at that time, since the assistant coaches' supplemental contracts expire at the end of each season. He also said he had never received any complaints from other coaches at the school regarding Ryan, who played baseball and football as well as basketball for BLHS. Conversely, he said no similar complaints against Campbell from other parents have ever been received.
Campbell, who was present at the board meeting but did not speak, said afterward that complaints from parents are something he's dealt with before over his 25 years of coaching, and that Smith's persistent complaints just won out. "We've always had disgruntled parents, just like any other coach, but this is a whole new level of animosity for some reason that I can't figure out."
Campbell called the incident "a huge misunderstanding." He said that while he was coaching Ryan, the boy walked away from him. "He turned and walked away from me, and I said, 'Don't turn your back on me. You can't hardly hear me anyhow.'" Campbell said that speaking to Ryan face-to-face helped in cases where he might not be able to hear the instruction.
Campbell said that he and Ryan got along well and still do. "If I had known that Ryan had been offended by the comment, I would have apologized, but nobody brought it to my attention until this year."
With a basketball season that begins in less than two months, time is running out for the district to come to a decision regarding the open position. "I will have further discussions with the head coach, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Smith and the athletic director to determine the direction the district will be moving," Polen said.