East Aurora's popular varsity wrestling coach, Keith Maute -- lauded by many for putting the district's Blue Devils on the map in local wrestling circles -- has been fired by the district, and parents are demanding to know why.
Maute, who has coached at East Aurora for four years and was a prominent wrestling name in Lancaster for years, brought the struggling team to life. The team, which had an 0-12 record the year prior to his arrival, won its first division title in school history with an undefeated season and became a top-ranked small school in Western New York by his third year coaching.
But his recent dismissal has sparked an outcry among parents of the wrestlers and the Wrestling Booster Club.
The School Board backed the recommendation of Superintendent James Bodziak in late spring and dismissed Maute.
About 25 parents, some of them accompanied by their sons who wrestled under Maute's guidance, attended Tuesday's board meeting, pleading that the decision be reconsidered and asking for Maute to be reinstated. Among those who spoke was wrestler David Whitcomb, who graduated this year and is the son of School Board member James Whitcomb.
"I don't think your decision was based off the best judgment," David Whitcomb said. "Wrestling [now] has a historic run at the high school. I think that legacy should continue."
"There's something different about Keith that he's brought to the sport," parent Matthew Garvey said. "He maintains a great deal of discipline and works hard with the kids. We were surprised and disappointed. We're mystified as to why he was let go."
The issue -- which dominated the board's reorganizational meeting -- drew mostly guarded comments from the board.
School officials insisted they could not publicly discuss personnel matters and cited confidentiality in such matters. Maute could not be reached to comment late Tuesday night.
Bodziak declined to elaborate on the reasons for letting Maute go and indicated that he doubted whether the board would change its mind.
"We understand your concerns, but we cannot reveal specific details and reasons for dismissal," board President Daniel Brunson said. "This is not an issue where it was taken frivolously or lightly."
Parent Mark Potenza, who sent a detailed letter to the board that largely praises Maute's work with the wrestling team, noted that many boys on the team said they won't wrestle for another coach or may quit wrestling altogether.
Board member Dennis Holbrook told the parents that the board is mindful of the significance of their input.
"No decision is made that couldn't be reconsidered," Brunson said, though he noted that nothing is imminent.