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softball120Several softball players and parents turned out Monday to show their support for Randy Randall, who was not hired to coach varsity or Junior Varsity softball this year.  Personnel issues are among the few issues the Board Of Education cannot discuss in public meetings, but parents' comments grew heated as it became apparent that there would be no recourse.

"I don't think we're making the right decision," said J.J. Lovejoy, whose daughter is a softball player.  "To remove somebody that's been plugged into this program and to have a community put what they've put into it... I take it personally because my daughter is getting ready to get into that varsity position in the next year or so, and the wheel that's worked is not the wheel any more, and we're going to invest in the unknown.  I don't know why we're fixing something that wasn't broken."

Randall was the varsity coach for at least the past two years, and has been coaching softball in some capacity for years.  Last year the team made it to Sectionals, winning the first Class B Sectional game 4-0.  Lovejoy was cafeful to point out that he was not criticizing Huskie, but said that Randall is a 'sure thing.'

"Since T-ball I've been looking forward to playing on Randy's team," said softball player Allie Golden.  "I think he should definitely be part of the program."

High School English Teacher Andrea Huskie won the varsity coach position this year after an interview and screening process.  Huskie also coaches the JV girls basketball team in the winter season.

Lovejoy submitted a petition to the school board asking them to hire Randall to coach the JV softball team if he wasn't to continue in the varsity position.  But the decision had already been made by an interview panel.

"There is a interview panel formed to interview the varsity candidates and each panel member recommends their choice," explains Athletic Director Adam Heck about the hiring process.  "From that information the administration recommends a coach to the superintendent who then recommends to the board.  The hired varsity coach then is part of the process to hire the staff within the program along with the administration."

That recommendation was slated to be discussed by the board Monday night in an executive session that took place after the public business was conducted.  Executive sessions are stirctly regulated by law to limit the topics a school board can discuss privately, as opposed to the open, public meetings.  Personnel issues and pending legal actions are among the few topics that are relegated to executive sessions.  Board President Anne Drake said the board would also discuss what feedback could legally be given to Lovejoy and the public.

"We've discussed this extensively," board member Aziza Benson said.  "The interview process was very clear.  I support it.  We understand how you feel with it, but that's my final decision: I'm going to have to support the interview team and I agree with what they did.  I'm very objective.  I have my own opinion.  I don't know anybody so I looked at it very translucently and I think it was a good decision for right now."

The discussion served to highlight frustration that some parents are feeling about athletic programs that have been under attack because of the loss of school funding from New York State and federal and local sources.

"We parents are being asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of the sports program because you don't think it's that important," Steve Golden told the board.  "So we're paying for it out of pocket, yet we don't have any say whatsoever over who runs the program.  That's wrong.  It's not about Randy.  It's about these kids.  He's been coaching since they were in Kindergarten."

After the Monday vote Drake said she would be sending a letter to Lovejoy to follow up, and that she would read it in the March 3rd school board meeting.

"The recommendation will not come to us until the next board meeting," she told the Star.  "I am going to read a letter that will be sent to J.J. Lovejoy about the process that was involved.  I do feel bad for these kids and for Randy.  I know how difficult things can be when feelings get in the way.  I am only one person and cannot overrule any recommendation.  Not that I would want to.  After all, they are the professionals.

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