Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bulletin: Priah is new Boys Basketball Coach

By a 4-0 vote, the Richmond Heights Board of Education accepted the recommendation of School Superintendent Linda T. Hardwick to appoint Beachwood assistant coach Jason Priah to be the new varsity boys basketball coach. Board president Josh Kaye, who had been behind-the-scenes a staunch proponent of returning disgraced Jason Popp to the position, did not attend tonight's meeting. Board vice president and Kaye ally Bob Fox presided at tonight's meeting, which drew a large crowd of parents and residents, along with seven media outlets [four local television stations, three newspapers].

The outcome was foreshadowed at last week's board meeting when, following a lengthy two-and-a-half hour executive session, the superintendent agreed to table her recommendation of Priah. It appeared at that time that the operative board majority had been stymied in its desire to reinstate Popp by the superintendent's insistence that uncontested allegations of Popp's inappropriate and racially demeaning conduct had rendered him unqualified to continue his coaching career at this time.

Still, the tension mounted as what vice president Fox promised would be a speedy executive session,   closed in on an hour's duration. Finally, the board and Hardwick emerged grim-faced from the lengthy session and proceeded to take the Priah recommendation off the table and pass it.

Still to be determined is who will coach the girls' basketball and boys' track team next year. Popp coached the track team this spring after having been removed mid-season from the basketball team. In Hardwick's words, he "slipped through the cracks" as she worked to resolve the basketball situation.

 Popp applied last month to coach both boys and girls basketball. Deniese Spencer has coached the girls team for the last five years and is likely to have the superintendent's support.

When asked by a television news reporter if Popp would coach girls basketball, the superintendent said, "Oh, no."

Taking Popp's coaching whistle resolves the district's most dramatic issue. However, it does nothing to address any of the other critical issues — among them:  endemic instability, a divided board, an embattled superintendent, a shrinking district, an estranged community — that cry out for resolution.

We will be reporting on these issues all summer long.


Anonymous said...

You seem to like to ask questions, so I have a few for you:

Have you bothered to ask questions about Coach Popp’s history with students?
What about as a teacher? What about his character?

Have you bothered to ask why, after 16 years of teaching and coaching in this district, he is suddenly accused of being insensitive, discriminatory, inappropriate and/or demeaning? Character assassinations seem to run rampant as people jump to conclusions based on one side of the story and incomplete information.

Have you asked what good things he has done for the district or for the students or for the athletes of Richmond Heights?

Has he EVER helped any of the students?

Has he ever helped any of these SAME students who are accusing him today?

With the reporting as it is, we are all awful quick to assume that he is this bad guy who has no respect for these kids who are winning despite his actions - without looking at him and the situation more closely.
Could it be that these parents do not like him? Isn’t it funny how this all seemed to start after the Plain Dealer did a story about the team on February 4, 2011 and quoted Coach Popp as describing Richmond Heights as “…incredibly diverse," said Popp. "We have kids from $400,000 houses and some from government housing. We are in the suburbs, but we are a lot like a city school…We have a lot of single-parent homes, a lot of families where money is not exactly falling out of their pockets," said Popp. "We have players who bring their younger siblings to practice with them on off-days, because mom is working and they have responsibilities. I admire the price they pay… Look at our kids on the court," said Popp. "They wear different color shoes. They had to pay $350 to play last season. It's $100 this season. We lose some of our best area kids to schools such as St. Ed's, Benedictine and St. Joe's. All have had players from Richmond Heights who would start for us." He paused, then said, "I give these kids credit."
Immediately afterwards, the parents started calling the school because they were offended by the article.
The article includes quotes from some of the players - Ishaam Smith: "Playing for this school and being ranked in the state means a lot to me. Coach yells at us a lot, but he's trying to tell us stuff. It motivates me."
Tommy Scales: “Coach pushes me," said Scales. "He's pure. He wants what's best for us."
Look up the article. I have read it a thousand times, and each time I get a sense of pride for these kids, this school, this coach.
Isn’t it possible that the parents were so upset about their image in the article that they pushed and pushed and created more issues than what was actually there? Think about it. February 9, 2011 suddenly there is a meeting with the superintendent, parents and players after the article is published, and after the parents issue a letter to Dr. Hardwick (released at the same time to the Plain Dealer….hmmmmm) charging Coach Popp with “racial and economic harassment." Economic harassment? What is that? Because of the article? Public information? OOPS! Don’t tell anyone!!! It’s all on the Ohio Department of Education website – it’s all part of the Richmond Heights Local Schools State Report Card! How dare he put it out there in the news!!!!

And then, just as suddenly, on February 10, 2011 Jason Popp is removed from his head coaching position. Funny, isn’t it? Released from coaching, but still being paid as the head coach? Released from coaching basketball, but still retained as the head track coach? Still teaching? Maybe there is more to the story?

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the parents used this as a way to get him out of coaching, and coached their children to come up with reasons to have him dismissed, because there were no real underlying reasons - because he is a good guy?

Don’t you find it interesting that he has said nothing to defend himself? Who can say why? The parents seem to think it is because he is guilty of inappropriate behavior and he cannot defend himself. Yet, if this were true, why did it take so long for the board and the superintendent to make a decision? If it were so clear cut – so inappropriate – so wrong – there would have been no question about what steps needed to be followed.

Coaches are coaches. They are motivators. They are disciplinarians. They are people. They get mad. They get excited. They get loud. They yell. Did he yell at his players? Yes. Did he talk to them at their level? Yes. Did he use inappropriate language? Surely. Talk to the football players – their coach ripped out a sink in the locker room in an angry tirade. Was he disciplined? Was he appropriate? I have heard several coaches at Richmond Heights throw around the “F” word as if it were an everyday part of the language. I have heard the Lord’s name in vain. Is that appropriate? Is it more appropriate than using the “N” word? Is there a degree of inappropriateness that people are not to cross?

Have you listened to these same kids when they are on their own? They throw around the “N” word as if it were an endearment. Do they sound like kids that would be offended so easily? Does this make it ok? No. But we still don’t know the whole story. The news makes it sound like Coach Popp directly used the “N” word at the athletes. Did he? Or did he use it in a different context? Does it matter? Is it ok for some to use the word but not others? Obviously the players themselves think it is ok for them to use it, but not the coach. Why? I don’t know – I am just asking.

Before you go down the road that this is a Black and White issue, please consider a few more questions. Why would Coach Popp spend so much time and energy with these kids if he did not like them? Why would he donate his own money for those who could not afford the “pay to play” fee? Did you know that? Ask the school treasurer. Not only did Coach Popp pay for these kids out of his own pocket, but he also provided help with class work, homework, and personal issues. Why would this coach spend so much time with these kids, sometimes at the expense of his own family, if he did not respect them? Could it be that he truly cared about these kids? Could it be that he used inappropriate language around them? Sure, but, did he use it because he had no respect for them? These, the kids he spends more time with than his own family? Has any parent used inappropriate language in front of their kids? I am sure the answer to that is yes. I know, he is NOT their parent. We expect more of him. He made a mistake.

This was a story because people thought, “Here we go again, another White guy treating Black people badly.” Look how the media backed off when the board finally decided not to rehire him as basketball coach. They don’t care about the real story.

I ask you, do you really think this coach was trying to destroy these kids? This was never about a White guy being disrespectful to Black players; this was about some black parents looking for a way to get this white coach out because they did not like what he had to say. This is about parents then questioning their kids about what else this White coach had to say to them. This is about parents pushing so hard that once they made a stand, there was no taking anything back.

Anonymous said...

Is it just the parents? No. This is also about a Superintendent that is NOT qualified to be a Superintendent, doing what the parents wanted in order to make herself look good. Did the Superintendent handle the situation in a professional manner? No. Is it because she is black? No. Is it because she is a woman? No. It is because she is not qualified to do the job professionally. She doesn’t know what to do. She never has.

The kids of Richmond Heights deserve more then what she has done in her administration. She did not bring scores up; the teachers brought those scores up. The same teachers that you seem so angry about because they received a meager 2% raise after 3 years of no increase. The same teachers who have been asked to pay more into health care. The same teachers who are bashed daily for not VOLUNTEERING their time for the benefit of the children. The same teachers who have been the only consistent entity in Richmond Heights over the past five years.

All this while the superintendent has spent thousands of dollars on a conversion school that never happened. She has spent thousands of the district dollars because of her ignorance of the law. She has spent more time away on vacation than any other Superintendent. If she cared so much for these kids, then why does she take a full salary, when she is a retired rehire receiving pension benefits on top of her salary? She makes a lot of money, and again I ask what has she done for this district? She spent money hiring people around her to do her job – because she didn’t know how. And when those people were “taken away” from her – she says it is because the board is setting her up to fail. Just how many people does it take to run a district the size of Richmond Heights? Maybe the board is trying to get a hold of the finances that she seems to spend so easily. Who is setting who up to fail?

Everyone keeps saying it is about the children…what is right for the children. If it is about the children, let’s make it about the children. Not about the adults who want to make it a black – white issue in a media circus. Not about the adults who want to make a name for themselves in the news. Not about the fight between the School Board and the Superintendent. Not about a bunch of embarrassed parents who are angry about their economics being put out in the news. Funny. The only one NOT using the news as a broadcast of blame is Coach Jason Popp. Character. Think about it.

Just asking.

Richard said...

@Anonymous: Thank you for your extended comments/questions, some of which I addressed today [June 27] in a new post and the rest of which I will address tomorrow [June 28].