Group opposes retaining coach

Petition presented at school board meeting

LEWISTOWN – An agenda item for the Sept. 27 business meeting of the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors unleashed a small firestorm from a group of concerned residents.

On the agenda is the hiring of spring sports coaching positions, including current baseball coach Bernie Howard.

During Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, Lewistown resident Neal Shawver presented the board with a petition asking the board to reconsider retaining Howard as the baseball coach at MCHS for a number of reasons. At that point, Board President Terry Styers stopped Shawver, telling him the the matter could not be discussed in an open meeting but rather had to move to executive session.

A short executive session followed and when the meeting resumed, the board allowed Shawver to have his say.

“This is a very serious matter,” Shawver stated. “It’s a situation to be watched.”

A copy of the petition given to The Sentinel states: “We demand that the Mifflin County School District Athletic Director, Principal, Director of Secondary Education, Superintendent, Board of Directors and/or other authorized personnel accept this petition and my/our signatures as my/our formal request for the resignation or firing of Boys Head Baseball Coach Bernard “Bernie” Howard effective immediately.”

The petition cites 10 issues those signing have with the coach including bullying and abuse of power and position; misleading, manipulation or deception; disrespecting players, parents, umpires, volunteers, etc.; pressuring or coercing players to participate in American Legion baseball as a prerequisite to play high school baseball; inappropriate actions involving booster club activities; not caring about players’ physical health, mental and emotional well-being; failure to grow a player’s talent; failure to properly lead, coach and mentor; failure to facilitate the player recruitment process; creating a toxic atmosphere where talented athletes/players and/or parents do not want to participate or have chosen not to participate in the baseball program.

Shawver said the petition, among others, contains signatures of 10 parents of players on the team and has been told by additional individuals that the accusations are correct but they chose not to sign due to being employed by the school district.

“It’s out there,” Shawver said of the information. “I call them victims. They have a story to be told and nobody from the school district has listened. You have a monster created over the years. He’s the head high school coach and the Legion coach. He controls Mifflin County. He’s doing what he wants to do. He’s not listening to his assistant coaches. There are kids crying on the bench. There are physical and mental issues here. All I want to do is stop the wrong that’s been done. Here’s your problem. What are you going to do to solve it? If you don’t everybody will continue to suffer. Talk to people and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s now on your shoulders.”

Also speaking in support of the petition was Paul Iannone of Lewistown, the father of a promising baseball player who has been involved in travel ball as well as many baseball camps, including one at Duke University in North Carolina.

“At 14 years old, he was cut,” Iannone said. “I have no problem with that if someone was better, no problem at all. Last year I talked to the JV coach and asked why my boy wasn’t on the mound. He was 9-1 in Junior Babe Ruth. If my boy can go down to a Division I college and be invited back and not good enough for this school district, he will not play here as long as the coach is there. It will not happen. Please look into it and take it into consideration.”

Following Shawver’s and Iannone’s remarks, there was no comment from board members. Howard said by phone Thursday evening that he had no comment at this time.

Other agenda items scheduled for a vote during the board’s Sept. 27 business meeting include:

¯ Approval of the following Integrated Units of Study Maps for the current school year: Third grade All Things in Due Time; and Integrated Writing Units of Study.

¯ Approval of the following Grade Level STEM Units of Study Maps for the current school year: First Grade Humans and the Environment; Second Grade Impacts on Habitats Leading to Scarcity; Third Grade Slice of Soil; and Fifth Grade Sustainable Energy (Wind Turbine).

¯ A recommendation that the K-5 Integrated Units of Study written in 2017 remain in draft format for continued revisions and work.

¯ A request to waive the $870 fee for use of the high school auditorium for the Mifflin County Farm Bureau’s Measure the Candidates Night on Oct. 25. Additionally they are seeking a waiver for the sound crew fees.

¯ The addition of the following bus drivers: Beth Renninger, Wendall Booher Jr., Amanda Yohn, Robert Shoop, Sandy Sheaffer, Derek Gott, Roy Benn, and Shane Tomlinson.

¯ The addition of Ray Campbell Jr. and Ashley Hartzler as van drivers.

¯ The hiring of Sharon Hugendubler as a speech and language therapist at Lewistown Elementary School at a salary of $49,830.

¯ The resignation of Megan Harper, seventh grade math teacher at the middle school.

¯ The resignation of Mary Owens, math teacher at the junior high school.

¯ The transfer of Melissa Basom as a paraprofessional from Lewistown Intermediate to Lewistown Elementary.

¯ The transfer of Taylor Himes as a paraprofessional from the junior high school to Lewistown Elementary.

¯ The hiring of Sonya Brower, Alice Johnson and Kimberly Carson as part-time cafeteria workers.

¯ The transfer of Tracy Bastress, part-time 4.75 hour breakfast/non-programs satellites at the middle school to 3-hour cashier at the middle school.

¯ The hiring of Darwin Hetrick as a substitute custodian effective Oct. 1.

¯ The hiring of Alan Kratzer as a substitute custodian effective Oct. 1.

¯ The hiring of John Washburn as a full-time custodian at Indian Valley Elementary effective Oct. 1.

¯ The hiring of the following as substitute custodians pending completion of all pre-employment paperwork: Samantha Laird, Heath Foster, Christopher Groce and Matthew Knepp.

¯ The addition of Trystan Snyder to the event staff.

¯ Approval of the following spring head coaches: Bernie Howard, varsity baseball; Jack McCurdy, varsity softball; Scott Sechler, boys track; Scott Gantz, girls track; Lester Kyle, boys tennis; Carolyn Kline, junior high girls soccer; Robert Lepley, junior high boys soccer; and Krystena Brown (Mayo), junior high girls volleyball.

¯ Approval of the following teacher mentors: Elizabeth Lambert, Shashona Baker and Kaylee Moore.

¯ Approval of the following coordinators for the current school year: Laura Faro, parental engagement coordinator at a stipend of $375; and Crystal Fabina, Parental engagement coordinator at a stipend of $375.

¯ A recommendation to purchase office furniture for the renovated space at East Derry Elementary School at a cost of $10,405.44 with funds to be taken from capital reserve.