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WEF gives $50,000 to school district Contentious lacrosse coaching issues resurface
By: MICHAEL C. UPTON Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
During its regular board meeting Tuesday, Warwick School District received a big check, literally, from the Warwick Education Foundation (WEF).
WEF president Grant Hummer and other members presented an oversized check in the amount of $50,828 to the district board of directors.
"(The majority of the money) goes to technology, and the rest gets funneled to other places," said superintendent Dr. April Hershey after the meeting. "(Some) of it goes to intervention resources, which is something we have in elementary school for kids who don’t make benchmark."
The group posed for photographs with the huge check, and appreciation was bestowed upon the group by the board.
"While I’d like to take credit, it is the (local) businesses that participate that help by getting tax credits for the money they donate," said Hummer, who then listed those businesses.
Started in 1997, WEF has contributed more than $750,000 to the school district. Their mission is: To promote, enhance and endow enriched educational, teaching and learning opportunities within the Warwick School District.
In other news, questions regarding Gary Minnich’s association with the Warwick Boys Lacrosse team resurfaced when resident Joe Schultz asked the board to consider a post-adoption addition of the former coach’s name to the list of Tuesday’s volunteer coaches. Earlier in the meeting, the board unanimously approved six volunteer coaches. Schultz stated he received an e-mail from Minnich and reported to the board many of the claims in the e-mail.
"The reason he was not recommended was because he was suspended for a year," said Schultz. "I did some investigation and found out that there was … no vote on that action."
Schultz said he later received correspondence from Hershey saying there was no suspension, but Minnich, who is a high school math teacher, was not recommended as a coach. In January, Minnich believed he would be able to voluntarily coach boys lacrosse again, Schultz said.
"I do not understand why he’s not allowed to be around to coach the team," he said to the board Tuesday night.
In October 2012, Wayne Hummer was unanimously elected as head coach of the lacrosse program, replacing Chris Schmehl. In July of the same year, a group of more than 20 parents led by lacrosse parents association president Mark Sell addressed the board and called for the reinstatement of coach Schmehl and Minnich, who was then assistant coach. The group had assembled to show support for the coaches, whose contracts were not extended into the 2012-13 season.
Previously, in July 2011, a group of concerned parents held different opinions of Schmehl. At that time, resident Chuck Biemesderfer said lacrosse parents showed support for the removal of Schmehl. Much of the controversy over Schmehl revolves around an undisclosed student violation. Citing PA law concerning discussion of personnel matters, the district declined to comment on the issue in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Even after prodding from an aggravated member of the audience Tuesday, the board refused to comment on personnel issues due to legal obligations.
After Schultz’s comments, Minnich himself decided to address the board, stating that his inability to be with the team was predicated on "other issues."
"I’m the white elephant in the room," said Minnich, as he approached the podium. "I wrote all you guys a letter a couple weeks ago and they are the facts. I want to know what these other issues are. Here I am. You can’t hide behind the veil of secrecy because I’m the one you’re talking about. I don’t understand… you saw my writing; you know how frustrated I am with this nine months of crap. I go in my classroom now and the kids are like, ‘What did Mr. Minnich do?’ I’m not sure what I did!"
He continued to say he has considered leaving the district because of the problem. Seemingly frustrated by the lack of response from the board, Minnich immediately left the meeting. The board did not comment.
"We can’t really talk personnel matters in public," said board president Dr. Timothy Quinn. "I’m sorry."
In other news, during a report on activities of the finance and legal committee, chairman Darryl Miller urged board members to contact governmental representation concerning the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. For years, the Warwick cafeteria program has provided a positive source of funding for the district. In a presentation by Karen Miller, director of food and nutrition services, at the March committee meeting, it was reported the entity may begin facing budget deficits due to federal unfunded mandates. The heavily detailed act calls for the implementation of dietary plans in schools over a period of several years. On the national level, proponents say the act offers children a healthier menu for school breakfasts and lunches. Opponents question the evidence of student participation in the program, and the absence of funding.
"She shared a little bit about how the cafeteria is operating this year," said Miller. "With one change alone, produce costs are up so far this year $55,000 just to comply with these unfunded mandates. She talked a little about upcoming changes and potential changes and the potential impact on the cafeteria."
"(Karen Miller) is frustrated by another unfunded mandate," said board member Michael Landis. "I don’t want to disagree with good nutrition for our students and our children, but the federal government is putting mandates on us that (are) costing us an increase in $.35 per serving. She encouraged us to contact our local Congressman."
In personnel news, the board approved retirements for nine teachers, one administrator, and one guidance counselor. Warwick Middle School assistant principal Penny Mason will retire effective Aug. 31.
"I would also like to thank all the retirees today and over the last several months," said Hershey. "Their collective years of experience (are) hundreds of years."
The board also approved Wednesday, June 12 as the commencement date for graduation of the class of 2013. Student representative to the board Abigail Barthe said seniors would be glad to hear of the action. The graduation will be held at the Calvary Church, 1051 Landis Valley Road.
"I wanted to take the time to say a few things about (Abigail)," Quinn said. "She comes to our voting meetings here. She goes to two other meetings. Plus, she does her extra-curricular activities, and oh yeah, she does homework and studies for tests among other things. We really appreciate having a student advisor on the board. I always wanted to let people know that she is here in addition to a lot of other things. So, Abigail, I just wanted to say thank you. It’s pretty important." More SCHOOL BOARD, page A17