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Abuse of Power
by Nancy Kman,posted Feb 5 2013 11:32AM
I live in a rural school district. Susquehanna County is home to probably more livestock than people. Our students come from decent, hardworking families. You know that farmer ad everyone raved about during the Superbowl? That’s the Mountain View School District.
We don’t have a lot of money. Sadly, many of our kids live below the poverty line. Our grade point averages don’t stack up very well across the state. In fact, I believe we are near the bottom.
I’m not going to say we don’t have drugs, but we don’t have a lot of the drug and violence problems you see in more populated areas. We don’t have football, and some sports we barely field a team.
I tell you all of this because it goes to show just how amazing it was for our Mountain View High School Eagles soccer team to win the State Championship. The final two playoff games were against two private schools from wealthy areas. Our boys won. They won because of their skill, and the extraordinary coaching of Roger Thomas.
You may have read the story in the paper last fall, about how Coach Thomas was suspended after a high scoring game against Old Forge. Perhaps when you saw it, your first reaction was that he deserved it. Like every story, you need to get the full picture before you make a decision. I don’t claim to have the answer, or evidence that changes your mind. I still struggle with whether I would have allowed the score to get that high. However, I’ve never coached a team.
As I learned more about the details behind the situation, I’ve been disturbed by a few facts. The soccer team was placed in a division where it was obvious they would be overwhelming their opponents. There were concerns that the players would not get the necessary competition to hone their skills for future playoff games. There were concerns that opposing teams who could not play up to the level might be overly aggressive and injure our players. That has happened in the recent past. Those concerns fell on deaf ears.
During the entire season, the Eagles outscored their opponents 104-4. In the final two games to the State Championship they won each by only 1. I’d say the evidence shows that the team and the school was right to argue for a different division.
Let’s fast forward to the game against Old Forge. As reported by Coach Roger Thomas, the opposing coach stated at the beginning of the game that his team was playing for fun. Coach Thomas had upcoming playoffs to consider and wanted to make sure the team was prepared. Here’s where you and I and others can argue about whether he should have allowed the score to get to 24-1.
What I have a real problem with is how this situation was handled. At the game, the School Board President took it upon himself to walk over to the Principal to tell the coach to stop the scoring. If you don’t know, a school board member has no power outside of the board room. In fact, they are supposed to stay out of issues that could come before them, so they are as unbiased as possible. As relayed in the board meeting last night, the Principal then goes to the coach and tells him there will be repercussions if he doesn’t stop. You may wonder why a school board member would get involved. This one has a player on the team, a player who is not a starter.
The Superintendent later decides to implement a suspension against Coach Thomas. The board is only notified of her decision after the fact. Remember, she answers to the board, a board who’s President was the one who instigated the issue.
We are now hearing that the League may be taking action of its own. A large group of parents and taxpayers attended the School Board meeting Monday night. They believe that the Board should be supporting Coach Roger Thomas and want reassurance that they are, and that they will have him on again as coach for the coming season. The Board President actually said he was not in favor of rehiring the coach. Imagine that, a man who takes your school’s team to the State Championship, tossed aside due to petty mean-spiritedness.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe education is the top priority of a school board. That is why this is so perplexing to me. Roger Thomas is an excellent teacher, and he inspires the kids in his class and on his team. His soccer team is ranked #5 in the nation. Some of his players will get scholarships they sorely need to further their education. At a time when most schools, and school boards, would be bursting with pride, the Mountain View board is doing everything it can to throw the team and the coach under the school bus. It’s a real shame.