Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Richmond Heights School Board Tables Action but the Decision Has Been Made

 The fat lady hasn’t sung yet but you can hear her warming up just off-stage.

Officially, the Richmond Heights Board of Education tabled until June 22 the recommendation of School Superintendent Linda T. Hardwick to appoint Beachwood High assistant coach Jason Priah to coach the Spartans varsity boys basketball team for the 2011-12 season.

Unofficially, putting the decision off for a week was a clear signal to savvy board watchers that the struggle to save Popp’s basketball job is over and he is out. 

This result was not immediately apparent when board president Josh Kaye came out of what was surely a contentious executive session lasting about two hours and announced that the board would not be deciding on the boys’ coach at the meeting. His statement came just before 10:30PM, three and a half hours after the meeting had started.

Kaye attributed the board’s decision “not to decide” to the introduction at executive session of “new information” that had been brought to the Board’s attention and said the matter required further “research”.  He indicated that the Board was likely to decide by the end of the month.

The meeting then returned to the published agenda as the television news teams and the Plain Dealer reporter all began to withdraw.  Kaye’s announcement signaled to them that there would be no dramatic action to announce on the 11PM news or in the morning sports headline. As it turns out, they left prematurely.

The twenty-plus members of the public who stayed to the end included several parents of the boys who had protested coach Popp’s intemperate reign. Among the parents and relatives were Frank Barber, Nneka Slade Jackson, and Carlos Slade.

Waiting more than four hours for the public participation of the meeting was not going to deter them. After all, they had been waiting more than four months for a fair and final resolution. Last night, with boys and girls summer basketball leagues already underway, and every school in the conference reportedly participating but their own, and with the superintendent on record with her choice to replace Popp, the parents focused their fire on the Board and unleashed their frustration.

The brother and sister team of Jackson and Slade performed a pick-and-roll that pushed the board to advance its next meeting, promise to resolve the situation, and, after four months, to acknowledge, virtually for the first time, that Popp’s alleged behavior was inappropriate. We will be posting video of the public exchange later today.

Slade was even able to prod board member Aaron Burko into admitting that he had filed a report with fellow board members months ago about what his observations after sitting in on the February meeting where coach Popp was presented by the parents with the charges against him and denied nary a one.

Intelligent and affirmative citizen action is a beautiful thing.

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