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2014-11-05 / Front Page

Heated ASD meeting as board hires acting varsity basketball coach

Community comes out in support of former coach Jack Agostino

by Carolyn  James

A petition is circulating in the community asking—no demanding—that the Amityville School Board rehire former basketball coach Jack Agostino, a longtime coach in the district who was not reappointed this year.

“As of today, 1,000 individuals in a mere four days have signed the peitition to resore the coach’s rightful  coaching position,” said Heather Draskin.

While the Superintendent of Schools and the School Board members said they could not discuss the issue since it involved personnel, residents noted that the board’s decision is in response to an incident that occurred last season when the Warriors, coached by Agostino, posted a perfect 12-0 league record, a victory over Westhampton in the Suffolk Class A semifinals, and a victory over John Glenn in the championship. Yet they were unable to advance to the Long Island Championship because Agostino put in an ineligible player at the end of the 74-73 overtime victory over John Glenn, stripping Amityville of their County title. The student was a junior varsity 8th grade player who was not cleared to play on the varsity level, an infraction of the Section XI regulations.

At that time, parents of some of the athletes, who were angered over the team’s loss of the title, attended a school board meeting demanding that the board hold the coach accountable.

 “Our children’s title has been stripped and we are here as a (group) to see what happened,” said parent Shalyn Smith at a school board meeting last spring. “We are looking for answers and for solutions.”

Smith said she and the community wanted to know who is accepting responsibility for what happened. "When that title was stripped, everyone lost," she said. "The children lost and the community lost and someone should be held accountable for that."

But community sentiments appear to have changed. At a meeting last night, the community came out in support of the former coach.

“I don’t believe your recommendations are coming from a concern for children,” said Patricia Hobson. “What happened in the past is a mistake; we all make mistakes.”

“For many of these students, a coach is the only male figure in their lives and this man has been there for Amityville’s kids,” said Kevin Saunders.

Patricia Hobson of Amityville said the message to the board from the community was simple: “Bring him (Agostino) back,” she said, referring to the petition.

Dan Hill of Selden, a personal friend of Agostino’s, spoke on his behalf, saying the board was acting in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner.

“This is an abuse of power,” he told the board. “The coach (Agostino) is on a very short list of successes with a state championship and county championship, but that’s not what this is all about. It’s about how he teaches life lessons and cares for kids.”

The board voted unanimously to  hire Billy Kretz as acting varsity basketball coach for the winter season. Prior to that, Board President Lisa Johnson, who was peppered with questions about how and why the board made its decision, repeatedly told the community the issue involved personnel and that unless the employee (Agostino) signed a waiver to discuss it, they could not. The school district’s attorney reinforced that position.

“Employment history and personnel records of an individual are protected by privacy under state laws and school boards cannot employment history, personnel records in the absence of a waiver from the employee,” he said.

At times the discussion became heated with, residents raising issues of race and demanding that the board provide the public with an accounting of its hiring policies and procedures and asking if it reaches out to a “diverse” community of applicants.

“The district needs to look like the kids who go there,” said Saunders.

The board voted unanimously to hire Billy Kretz as acting varsity basketball coach for the winter season.

Agostino was not immediately available for comment.




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