New Ken-Arnold board asked to mediate between football groups
The New Kensington-Arnold School Board was called upon Thursday to referee disputes involving the cities' youth football league and booster groups supporting the varsity football program.
Scores of supporters of the Ar-Ken Rens youth football league crowded into the board room after rumors circulated that the school board was going to prevent the league from using district facilities, including Valley Memorial Stadium in New Kensington.
School board President Bob Pallone said there was no plan to ban the organization.
But he recommended that the board prevent Ar-Ken and other community groups from using the stadium's concession stand, press box and scoreboard after repeated complaints of damages and facilities being left a mess.
“It's in the best interest of the school district that we take control of that facility,” said Pallone, who leads the board's athletic committee. “That field is a significant investment.”
Mike Orr, the district's director of facilities, said when his staff inspects the field and related facilities on Sundays or Mondays, they've found bags of garbage left behind plus dirty bathrooms and a greasy concession stand.
Pallone said a component of the scoreboard also was broken.
However, Ar-Ken Rens supporters noted other groups use the facilities and said they shouldn't be blamed for problems unless they can be proven to be at fault.
Tonya Pryor-Norman, Ar-Ken's president, said they're diligent about cleaning. She said they have run into problems accessing the facilities, their equipment stored on site and cleaning supplies.
Jennifer Buzard-Kopp, who is involved with the new varsity boosters group called the Valley Football Coaches Club, said she's had to clean up the concession stand and other areas immediately after the Rens used it.
Ron White, a former board member supporting Ar-Ken, asked the school board to work with the league.
“We shouldn't shut them down until we give them another chance,” White said.
“We've been having these discussions (with Ar-Ken) for two years,” Pallone countered. “It's been clearly communicated.”
However, Pallone said he liked a possible solution presented by Mike Seybert, who is involved in Valley's youth wrestling organization.
Seybert questioned why Ar-Ken couldn't be charged for district custodial staff to clean up any messes left behind, as happens for wrestling tournaments.
Orr and District Business Manager Jeff McVey estimated a typical charge to outside groups for custodial services would be $35 per hour for a minimum of four hours.
Orr said Ar-Ken has not been charged to use facilities because they are supposed to clean up after themselves.
Pallone said the school board would arrange a meeting with Ar-Ken's board in the near future to try to reach a compromise.
Meanwhile, he said Ar-Ken could continue to use Valley Memorial Stadium, including the concession stand and scoreboard, for this Saturday's games.
“The goal is to make sure our kids in the New Kensington-Arnold School District are provided for because they are our future,” said Christine Guy of Arnold, gesturing to about 50 students sitting before the board, many in their Ar-Ken football and cheerleading uniforms.
“These are your next quarterbacks, your next running backs,” Guy said before applause drowned her out.
New booster group authorized
While no decisions regarding the Ar-Ken Rens were made Thursday, the school board did recognize a new football booster group and agreed to “disenfranchise” the group that supported the district's football program last school year.
District officials said they are not involved in running any booster group. The district only grants booster organizations permission to use the district name for fundraising purposes and use of district facilities.
Pallone said football coach William “Muzzy” Colosimo is working with the new booster group known as the Valley Football Coaches Club. The former group was the Touchdown Club.
“I think he (the coach) gets to decide who he works with,” Solicitor Tony Vigilante said.
Colosimo, who was present, did not speak on the issue. He also is the district's athletic director.
Pallone said there were reports that both groups were soliciting funds in the district's name and the board needed to clarify which was the official support organization.
However, Tom King, who led the Touchdown Club last school year, denied that his group was fundraising on the football program's behalf.
King said he would have preferred for parents and coaches involved with the new group to help the Touchdown Club resolve its problems, especially since many parents involved in the new club were involved in the old club and should be partially responsible for its debts.
The club has been under the gun to repay $13,000 to Slippery Rock University for last summer's football camp.
“They should be helping it out, trying to build back up the name,” King said. “Why don't we pull together?”
The school board authorized the new booster group in a 6-3 vote with Pallone, Eric Doutt, Jason Fularz, Regina Namey, Pat Petit and George Zavadak in support.
Opposed were Marilyn Claassen, who said she didn't have enough information on the issue; Laura Varner-Norman, who said she felt the board was getting in the middle of the conflict; and Liney Glenn.
King questioned what would become of concession equipment purchased by the Touchdown Club that currently is locked in the stadium concession stand. King said they were torn over whether to give the equipment to the new booster group or sell it to pay bills.
Superintendent John Pallone said the district has no control over what the club does with the equipment. If club officers can prove they own the equipment, Pallone said arrangements would be made for them to collect it.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.