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School Board Renews Football Coach’s Contract Despite Parents’ Concerns

The Peters Township School Board renewed Coach Rich Piccinini’s 2012-13 contract by a 6-3 vote Tuesday.

It was standing room only at Tuesday’s meeting, as football players and parents filed into to address concerns regarding a contract renewal of head football Coach Rich Piccinini.

Few parents spoke at the podium prior to the school board’s 6-3 vote to renew Piccinini’s contract—Sandy Gregg, Bill Merrell and Sue Smith held the opposing votes.

A lengthy email exchange, forwarded to Peters Patch—between Mark Mortland of and district Superintendent Nina Zetty—circulated to football parents discussing claims of injured players being forced to play and alleged verbal abuse by Piccinini.

Mortland, who provides athletic training to the district, wrote, “What I personally witnessed was the most deplorable, disrespectful and disgraceful behavior from a head coach in any sport I have ever seen. I have been providing athletic training services to high schools, college and professional sporting teams for 25 years and have never seen anything like this year’s head football coach.”

Zetty replied saying she immediately took the issue to Athletic Director Brian Geyer and high school Principal Lori Pavlik following Mortland’s first email sent Nov. 30.

Zetty also said Mortland’s accusations are, “in some cases, second-hand” and she questioned why he waited until the season was over to report the claims.

Peters resident and attorney Lisa Anderson voiced her opinion prior to the board’s vote Tuesday.

“I have raised questions about the safety of the program,” she said. “I want to ensure that you properly look at all of the claims written in these emails. I’d hope you’d contact each of the coaches individually to be sure there aren’t unreported claims.

“If the allegations are true, what kind of environment is being created? Players are afraid to talk about their injuries.”

School board member Bill Merrell reminded everyone about a Peters football player who died nearly 60 years ago from a serious head injury.

“These are serious situations we have to consider,” he said.  

Football mom Michele Bittel asked the board “to do the right thing.”

“I’m begging all of you, don’t make a decision on some information and not all. I urge you to postpone any vote if you don’t feel you have enough information to make an informed decision. We hired you to stand up for us.”

The board met privately for an executive session during the meeting, then cast the vote while completing meeting agenda items during the final minutes. 

Board member Sue Smith participated in the meeting via phone, as she was out of the state.

In a similar matter, and an effort to improve communication and the understanding of bylaws, the board appointed board member Lynn Erenberg to a new Sports Programs and Activities Committee during the meeting.

Board president Cindy Golembiewski said the committee will assure consistency within the bylaws in the district’s sports programs and organizational groups.

Editor's Note: Piccinini deferred comment on the matter.

Roger January 18, 2012 at 02:20 PM
This exchange provides more reasons to move sports out of public schools to club structures. The School Board should spend their time on matters of education, not sports injuries. If only there was this much interest in academics...
Anthony Brown January 19, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Not taking any "side" on this issue as I have zero first hand knowledge. BUT- a general observation. No program can be built or best service the kids without some level of continuity. I moved here in 2000 and it seems that there is a new football staff every 2 years. Someone needs to take ownership of this program and put it on a positive course.
Isayit January 26, 2012 at 08:13 PM
There will never be a steady football coach. Parents are never satisfied, if their child got less playing time than the other kid, they throw a fit and start parent vs. parent rivalries, its a damn reality show. The safety of kids should always be put first no question, but this school will never have a winning football team with these types of parents. They all have way too much time on their hands, are stuck up, snobby, and they all think their kid is going to play football @ Ohio State or LSU, parents are never happy with a coach, parents get too involved, when parents are not happy they cry to the board, then this results in a new coach every 3 years.

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