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CANFIELD SCHOOLS Volunteer baseball coach is out



Published: Thu, July 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The decision not to bring back Pitzulo was based on complaints from parents, the superintendent said.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Martha Zarlenga said she wants to do what's best for the students in the Canfield school district.

At a Canfield school board meeting Wednesday night, she and three other board members decided to retain a baseball coaching staff minus Sam Pitzulo.

"All the children of the Canfield school district are our first priority," said Zarlenga, board president.

However, some former and current Canfield baseball players said that if the board truly wanted to do what's best for the students, it would have brought Pitzulo back next spring. He had been junior varsity coach at Canfield High School.

"If they're making decisions in the best interests of the kids, then they made the wrong one," said Mike Keating, 18. Keating graduated this spring from Canfield High School, where he had played under Pitzulo as a sophomore.

Pitzulo had volunteered as junior varsity coach for the past five years. Anne Davis was the only board member to vote against hiring the staff that did not include Pitzulo.

About 60 people attended Wednesday night's meeting.

Rehired: The board voted to rehire Todd Thorne, Brian Finnigan, Alan Thorne, Dave Arnold and Ed DeAngelo to be baseball coaches next spring. All were on the staff last year.

Tony Ross had been hired as varsity coach at the board's June meeting.

Canfield Superintendent Douglas Hiscox said Todd Thorne most likely will serve as junior varsity coach next year.

The varsity coach will be paid $3,832, while the junior varsity coach will receive $2,737 and the freshman coach will be paid $2,464.

Pitzulo, a self-employed businessman, said he won't take legal action against the board in an attempt to get his job back. Yet he added that he does plan on coaching baseball again.

Reason for decision: Hiscox said the decision not to hire Pitzulo was made in response to complaints the board received from some parents. Those parents felt they couldn't talk to Pitzulo about the team, Hiscox said.

He said he did not want to hire a staff that would be bogged down by the controversy caused by the complaints.

Pitzulo said Wednesday that he adhered to a Canfield school board policy stating that parents are prohibited from talking to coaches about playing time for their children. However, Hiscox said the complaints weren't necessarily about playing time.

He did not go into detail.

Wednesday's meeting was marked by arguments between board members and outspoken adults who criticized the board's actions. Many of the adults at the meeting expressed anger at the board for not publicly discussing the selection of the baseball staff in the past.

The board talked about Pitzulo during an hourlong executive session at its June meeting.

"We do not talk employee stuff at public meetings," Zarlenga said. "That's for [the employees'] protection."

Upset: Dan Zapko, 18, said the board's decision Wednesday made him "ashamed to go to Canfield." Zapko played for Pitzulo for a year. He graduated in June.

Josh Dripps, 17, said, "It's not like [Pitzulo] didn't try to make people happy." Dripps played junior varsity last year and will be a senior at Canfield next year.

He said Pitzulo took his players out for pizza after every game and paid for it out of his own pocket.

Dripps said he thinks the board made its decision at the behest of a few parents who were upset because their children did not get more playing time. However, Hiscox stressed the board's decision was not made for a few parents.

Some parents at the meeting also criticized the media for its coverage of the decision not to hire Pitzulo. Joe Stephens, a Canfield resident who attended Wednesday's meeting and supported the board's decision, said the controversy surrounding Pitzulo has "gotten out of control."

"This is a wonderful school system," Stephens said. "All this negative press is disconcerting."

hill@vindy.com




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