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Board opening Hollidaysburg softball job

September 20, 2012
By Russ O’Reilly ( , The Altoona Mirror

HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Hollidaysburg Area school board voted 5-4 to open the position of head varsity softball coach.

The position has been held for the past 11 seasons by social studies teacher Mike Harris, who addressed the board Wednesday.

"I'm not here to discuss my being fired [Harris may reapply for the position, but he believes he won't be rehired]. I'm here to talk about the fact that I was not given a heads up. I understand there was an athletic committee meeting [during which the position was discussed] but I wasn't notified. Board members ran on a platform of transparency. Where is the transparency?" Harris said.

Harris was supported by assistant coach Paul Yakymac at the meeting.

Board member Stephanie Wertz led the board's discussion prior to the vote.

"After listening to these gentlemen, it appears people are concerned about the proper way to go about this. I understand people are concerned about games and scores, but can't we give him more of a notice?"

Harris asked the board to wait on its decision until he finishes the season, which begins in March. Harris' career win-loss record is 75-123. In the 2011 season, Harris' team's record was 1-13. For the 2012 season, the team went 3-15.

Harris gained the support of Wertz, Wally Tomassetti, Robert Vonada and Brady Leahey, who voted against opening the position.

"After tonight's dialogue, I vote no," Leahey said.

But board members Ron Yoder, Peter Hart, Darlee Sill, Aaron Ritchey and Troy Keefer were the majority voting to open the position.

Ritchey of the board's athletic committee said the softball coach position is an annual position for which the board is entitled to seek applicants.

"I don't see why the job needs to be restricted. It's not a character issue or lack of effort. The program is losing. It's not even competitive. If an English teacher was failing students for three years, we wouldn't give that teacher time to improve." Ritchey said. "I don't know why it's different with sports."

Ritchey hopes to have a pool of applicants for the position by November.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.

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