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Jeannette board votes to drop all sports to WPIAL Class A

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jeannette School Board members made a surprising choice Monday night and voted 6-3 to drop all district sports teams to Class A if the enrollment meets the requirements for that classification.

Terry Riffer, a representative of the Jeannette Football Cheerleaders Parents Association, and Lou Altieri, of Jeannette Baseball Association, spoke to the board at the beginning of the meeting asking them to change their minds and vote on the issue again. Last month, the board voted 5-4 against changing the football team's WPIAL classification from Class AA to Class A.

Riffer said player safety is one of the group's primary concerns and added, “The WPIAL sets the enrollment classifications for a reason. The board should endorse the standards of the WPIAL. There are only two other schools that ‘play up' and they're unique. Jeannette used to be like that but we are no longer there.”

Altieri said he trusts the board's judgment when it comes to educational issues, but athletics are different.

“I've been involved in running athletics in this town for years and I don't trust your judgment on this and I would like you guys to reconsider. I know the athletics of these kids better than anyone on the board right now,” he said. “I feel these guys (head coach Roy Hall and athletic director Matt Lebe) gave a good reason to make this change to let us drop down to where we belong.”

Altieri added that he thought the board's vote in October disrespected the opinions of Hall and Lebe.

“I highly respect the job you guys do, but it is a bad decision (not to drop). We're putting kids on the field who aren't ready to play at that level, yet,” said Bob Horn, resident.

Anthony DeNunzio II, who is the voice of the Jayhawks at home games, spoke with emotion when he asked the board to reconsider.

“We represent a pride and tradition that is unmatched in the history of schools,” he said. “I just don't want a negative sense of pride to develop. That Jayhawk symbol means something. We're in a position where we can preserve that if we make this move. We have to be willing to adapt. We need to be ahead of the curve and be proactive and not reactive. You have the support of everyone in this town, they support this move. We've seen this coming for a long time. The time to change is now.

“It takes a long time to build this history and this pride, but it doesn't take long to tear it all down. We don't want that.”

After listening to additional comments from several residents, board member Dr. David Valerio proposed a motion that would drop all Jeannette sports to Class A if they meet the enrollment numbers for that class.

“There is no right or wrong in this, but if we're going to do it they should all drop down. There is no shame in that, in playing in that class. I think what everyone wants is what's best for the kids,” said Valerio. “If we do it so that all sports are single A then it takes the personalities out of it, it takes the emotions out of it. If we're going to play within the (enrollment) numbers, we should do it that way (across the board).”

Bill Brasco, Morrison Lewis and Joseph Yorio voted against the change. Board members Valerio, Anita Mash, Donna Highlands, Randy Highlands, Mark Gogolsky and Patricia Caralli voted in favor of the move. Valerio and Caralli initially voted against the change in October.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-838-5154.