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Steel Valley board snubs coach, hires baseball assistant

| Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Steel Valley High School baseball players and their parents lined the walls of the school's conference room Monday night to support their coach Tim Vickers and his recommendation for assistant baseball coach.

After approximately an hour of comments from the public and school directors, the majority of the school board voted not to hire Micheal Beck, Vickers' choice as assistant.

Instead, the board hired John Skeels by a 5-3 vote at the special school board meeting.

School board president Beth Cannon, who is Skeels' aunt, and directors Donald Bajus, Donna Kiefer, Michael Terrick and Colette Youngblood voted in favor of Skeels.

District solicitor Don Fetzko said Cannon could vote because Skeels is not her parent, spouse, child, brother or sister.

School board vice president Vince Natale and directors Susan Ballas and Thomas Olson voted to hire Beck.

School director Joe Ducar was absent.

"It is what it is," Vickers said about the vote. "On one hand, I'm disappointed because I went through the process of selecting who I desired to be along with us throughout the year. On the other hand, I'm relieved to know the JV team will be able to start getting ready for the season."

He said the assistant coach's ultimate responsibility will be to head the junior varsity baseball team.

"In the last week, I have heard that comments were made in the community by board members that (tilde)the board has made its decision' and (tilde)the board is going in a different direction,'" Ballas said. "Funny, as a board member, I played no part in nor was I aware of any decisions made. In fact, I did not know of a second candidate until we were informed that a board member met with and was recommending another candidate.

"Since when do board members bypass the administration and meet with potential candidates on their own• In the 15 years I have served on the board, I have never heard of this being done."

She said the school board should let the administration do its job and not micromanage.

Bajus, who chairs the sports committee, said he interviewed Skeels because he "didn't like the resume of the other guy."

Vickers said he began the interview process a month ago and found Beck. He said Beck's name was pulled from the voting agenda of the Feb. 28 board meeting.

Cannon said the board received only a name, without qualifications, at its Feb. 21 work session.

"I don't want to see a person's name," she said. "I want to see what they have to offer our kids. I don't care who they are or where they come from."

Cannon said qualifications were received at the Feb. 28 school board meeting.

Though the district did not post the assistant coach position, it received a resume from Skeels. District superintendent Dr. William Kinavey and athletic director Shawn McCallister said assistant coaching positions usually are not posted because they are given to the person selected by the head coach.

"As long as they're approved and as long as they meet all their clearances, I'm perfectly fine with our AD and our head coaches making their decision on who should be in that position," Olson said.

After residents questioned the policy, Terrick said, "The ultimate policy is that the board makes the hiring decision. If the board is not satisfied with anyone that is the candidate, they can hire whomever they deem necessary."

"It doesn't bother me that you had some additional questions on the candidate endorsed by the head coach and athletic director," resident Mary Jobes said. "What bothers me is the unfairness and harassment that this one head coach and the team has endured. Other coaches have been allowed to pick their assistants as stated in their job description."

Resident Dale McShane said Vickers coaches his son in baseball.

"We trust his opinion and it's his choice," he said of Vickers.

Terrick said Beck has coached at six or seven schools in the past 16 years.

"I've hired before," Terrick said. "To me, there are a lot of red flags on why there's so much movement."

He said there's no indication of his collegiate experience.

Ballas said many coaches move their assistant coaches from school district to school district.

Terrick said Skeels is a Central Catholic graduate who played baseball throughout his high school career and went on to the University of Pittsburgh, where he also played for four years.

He said Skeels comes highly recommended by a Pitt coach.

"The reason I made my decision was based on the qualifications of the candidates," Terrick said.

Natale said he voted for Beck because of his years of experience and Steel Valley's past practices of voting on the recommendation of the head coach.

Cannon said Skeels is the most qualified candidate and brings positive energy to athletes.

Steel Valley teacher Kevin Tomasic, who coached baseball in the past, applied for the assistant baseball coach position last week.

Vickers said he asked Tomasic if he would fill the position because the school board seemed to be against Beck.

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