Highlands School Board member to remain as coach
Highlands School Board voted 5-3 on Monday to extend the contract of school Director Ron Lang as volunteer girls basketball coach.
Lang has been coach for two years.
As a volunteer, he doesn't get paid.
Lang told his board colleagues that next season will be his last as coach.
Voting to retain Lang were school director Ryan Hanford, Eric Miles, Laura Thimons, William Krzton and Carrie Fox.
Directors Debbie Beale, Jon Love and Mike Masarik voted against it. Lang abstained.
Beale asked board Solicitor Lisa Colautti if the extension conflicted with a court ruling in the West Mifflin School District that prohibited a board member from being an assistant coach.
Colautti said the West Mifflin ruling was not the same because the language in that district's teachers contract resulted in the prohibition. She said that language did not exist in the Highlands teachers contract.
Beale then argued that the action was invalid because it violated the board's own policy about requiring a volunteer coach having to report to a head coach.
However, Colautti said that's not the case because the board varied from the policy by its own action in hiring Lang as the head coach previously.
“There is nothing illegal about Mr. Lang serving as a coach for this district so long as he doesn't get paid,” Colautti said.
Exactly when the position was opened is not clear. But a school district spokeswoman on Saturday confirmed to the Valley News Dispatch that the position had been opened, though no candidates had been interviewed.
At the March 18 meeting, Beale's daughter, Melissa Beale, urged the board open the girls basketball coaching position and pay someone to coach.
She was critical of Lang's coaching and argued that a paid coach would produce better results for the program.
The board's vote was taken after four or five district residents, some of them players' parents, voiced their support for Lang.
Several of those who spoke acknowledged that while the team has not been winning, the girls are improving and program is starting to come together after they claim it was in disarray when the previous coach left.
Ken Misejka of Tarentum, whose daughter, a senior, has been in the program, said Lang volunteered to help when nobody else would.
“That guy stepped up and he helped,” Misejka said.
Jeff Thimons of Brackenridge, the husband of board member Laura Thimons, said, “Two things I can say about (Lang) is you won't find anybody who cares more about the kids than Ron. Also, you won't find a better basketball coach than him.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.