The resignation of high school football coach Joseph Shifflet stirred an outpouring of protests Tuesday night during a meeting of the City of Tonawanda School Board.
Shifflet, who resigned as varsity coach and interim athletic director, reportedly was upset by the selection of retired modified football coach Joseph Penvose as the new athletic director.
And while the district has a policy of shared decision-making in hiring, involving staff, parents and students regarding potential employees, board members said only district officials were involved in the recommendation of Penvose for athletic director. The part-time post will pay $16,000 through the end of the fiscal year.
For nearly an hour, audience members defended Shifflet.
"I know Joe resigned, but this is devastating," said one resident. "I don't even know (if the kids) are going to go out (for football) next year. They are floored. This is going to leave a big impact on not just the kids, but also the community. Mark my words."
Resident Dennis Smilinich told the board come election time, voters will remember not the successes of the board, but its failures.
"People are going to remember you for letting Joe Shifflet go," he said.
Even Penvose spoke in favor of Shifflet.
"If he had indicated to me that he was interested (in the position), I wouldn't have applied for the job," he said. "There is not a better football coach in the state. I learned more in four years from him than I had in my entire life before."
Board members debated the issue among themselves as well. Resolutions regarding the matter were changed and reconsidered many times during the meeting.
The board changed and approved its resolution not to accept Shifflet's resignation as football coach, and then tabled his resignation as interim athletic director.
The board initially failed to approve Penvose as athletic director, but a revote allowed the resolution to pass when board President Thomas Balk changed his mind.
Board member Daniel Calabrese was the most vocal against approving Penvose because of the committee which recommended the appointment. He told Penvose he had no issue against him personally.
"I feel there was a flaw here, and it should be revisited," he said. Calabrese said if the board approves the appointment, "it is making a serious mistake."
Balk defended his vote on Penvose, saying holding off on the appointment would have hurt the student athletes.
The board closed its meeting in executive session to discuss the Shifflet matter.
"I think he would still be an excellent football coach for Tonawanda," Balk said. "He's done amazing things. It concerns me that he doesn't wish to remain, because of all the good work he's done here."
On another issue, Gina Terbot resigned from her School Board seat as the meeting got under way.
Terbot, who would have concluded her first term in June, said she is resigning because of the unexpected challenges in raising her child, who was born last year. She was excused from several meetings in the past several months.