BY MICHAEL WINTERMUTE
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Tunkhannock Area School Board’s Thursday work session was mostly an opportunity for parents to discuss concerns regarding the high school’s football program.
After about 10 minutes of routine business in which discussion about next year’s budget was deferred to a later that night budget & finance committee meeting, the floor was turned over to a number of individuals who asked to address the board.
First up was Vicki Martin who asked when a decision was going to be made about fall sports coaches.
Martin, whose son Adam played for the eighth grade team last season, wanted some sort of assurance that decisions regarding fall coach appointments would be made by the end of next week’s meeting.
Board vice president Sandra Lane, who presided over Thursday’s meeting as president Mick Cronin was absent, noted that the board was awaiting recommendations from the athletic director before making any decisions.
She said the full board would be in executive session during its Jan. 23 meeting to discuss the fall coaches.
Seemingly in response to an article published in the Wyoming County Press Examiner on Jan. 15 regarding the future of the program, a couple of parents voiced their support for head coach Rod Azar’s decisions last fall.
Much of the concern about the program as voiced in the story in which Martin and two other parents were quoted dealt with discontinuance of the freshmen football team, which left freshmen facing tougher training and competition at the varsity level.
Gary Muckin, father of a freshman member of the varsity team this past season and another son who played for Azar in 2012 but graduated last spring, voiced his full support for the program.
Muckin noted that initially, he, too, was upset that his son would be forced to play at the varsity level, but over time, saw the benefits.
He also told board members and the gathered public that a miscommunication prior to the start of the season eliminated an opportunity that could have met much less friction from the community.
Apparently, information had been requested on whether or not freshman could choose to play at the junior varsity level as opposed to playing varsity.
This would give freshmen the option of playing for the eighth grade team or playing for varsity.
According to Muckin, athletes could choose which team they wanted to play on, but the season had already started, meaning athletes were ‘locked in’ to their teams.
Muckin also spoke to the 2014 season schedule which he characterized as providing some “relief” for next year.
“Our team has the toughest schedule in the Wyoming Valley Conference,” Muckin said, referring to which teams Tunkhannock faces. “Thanks to coach Azar, the 2014 schedule is not as tough. It’s going to make a difference.”
Another parent, Dorothy Callum, said that, while she sympathizes with concerned mothers, she agrees with Muckin’s observations that the program is transforming and likely to improve.
“I don’t know the solution, but it isn’t changing the coach every three years,” Callum said.
She said she was also skeptical of the decision to disband junior varsity, but saw what a clear benefit it was to more than a handful of freshmen.
“I believe these are good people and good coaches in a difficult situation,” Muckin said. “I trust them to teach our boys the sport and everything that comes with that.”
In an interview following the meeting, he added: “A lot of time and effort has been invested by the coaching staff to move the program forward. Bringing in new leadership at this time would set the program back.”
In the routine business, longtime administrator and current Tunkhannock Area assistant superintendent Ann Way announced her retirement.
“Let me be the first to congratulate you,” superintendent Michael Healey said. “I’ve come to respect you both as a person and a professional.”
Way has served the Tunkhannock Area School District for the past nine years.
In his report, Healey noted the appointment of Jennifer Seward as a medical aide, Brittany Wood as girls basketball cheerleading adviser, Stacey Seaberg as seventh grade girls basketball coach, and Susan Gibbons and Laura Luczak as substitutes.
The board voted to approve the bus and van contract amounts, with Lori Bennett abstaining.
The next school board meeting is Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m.