HASD to investigate misconduct allegations

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Criticism and defense of a Hollidaysburg Area Junior High School cheerleading coach during a Monday evening meeting led to allegations of inappropriate actions against another adult.

While many of the comments at Monday’s school board meeting focused on Angela Lombardi, the head cheerleading coach, new accusations were levied against an adult male by a girl who addressed those in attendance.

“He slowly started to get creepy,” the girl said. “He would tell us girls to message him privately on social media, such as Instagram and Snapchat. He’d taken an inappropriate picture of (another cheerleader) and asked her to post it on his Instagram page.”

The girl also alleged he touched the cheerleaders in places “such as our lower backs where we should not have been touched.”

At that, administrators asked the girl to stop talking, and she took her seat in the audience where she wept for several minutes.

Eventually, the girl left the meeting room, followed by administrators, as well as concerned parents.

After the meeting, Superintendent Bob Gildea said the girl’s accusations will be thoroughly investigated.

“That’s the first we heard of it,” he said.

Also during the public comment section of the meeting, parents and students spoke about Lombardi, who has been the target of criticism in recent weeks, with some students calling for her to be removed from the coaching position.

Parent Pam Keth said Lombardi’s removal was requested because of a “lack of leadership, integrity, honesty, sportsmanship and training on behalf of the coach.”

Keth spoke about Lombardi’s participation in a booster club — a notion that was later refuted by other parents — as well as alleged bullying perpetrated by coaches, parents and students.

“We wouldn’t be begging you to please do something if there weren’t serious problems here,” Keth said.

Her statements were followed by Lisa Wendle, who also offered criticism of Lombardi and the cheerleading program.

Circumstances have gotten so bad that her daughter drafted a petition to have Lombardi ousted from the coaching role, Wendle said.

“She and I discussed in great detail the consequences that would follow if she turned it in,” Wendle said of a conversation with her daughter. “I knew that if she went through with this process her only option would be to remove herself from the cheer team due to repercussions from the team and coach.”

That was a reality her daughter was willing to accept, Wendle said.

Team members and coaches weren’t the only targets of Wendle’s speech. She also made allegations against some parents she said took to social media to talk badly about children on the team.

“I personally witnessed, on Facebook, some parents saying horrible things about my daughter and other cheerleaders,” Wendle said. “This thread of conversation went on for hours. … I personally was appalled about things being said.”

Other parents and students expressed opposite opinions, defending Lombardi and the work she has done as coach.

Among them was Lombardi’s daughter, Sierra, who spoke about the hardships she’s faced as a result the recent turmoil within the cheerleading program. She described listening as people “bashed and lied about” her mother.

“It is not right for the parents and girls to emotionally attack and lie about my mother like they did,” Sierra Lombardi said, accusing other cheerleaders of bullying her. “My mom truly hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Angela Lombardi also took to the podium to defend herself, telling board members and district administrators that the accusations against her have become a hardship.

“It’s been very hard for me and my family to sit back and listen … because in no way would I ever physically, mentally harm a child,” she said, touting her 25 years of cheerleading experience. “I will take responsibility for my position with bringing unity to my team.”

No action on Angela Lombardi’s coaching role was taken Monday evening.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.