The coach thinks the recommendation was made at the behest of a few parents.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Sam Pitzulo is convinced that he has coached his last baseball game at Canfield High School.
"I'm done. This is a done deal," said Pitzulo, who has led the school's junior varsity team to a 75-18 record during the last five years.
On Wednesday night, Canfield Superintendent Douglas Hiscox told the school board that it shouldn't renew Pitzulo's contract. Hiscox would not comment on the reasons behind his recommendation.
The school board is expected to vote on the contract at its July meeting. Hiscox did not return calls for a comment Thursday.
"As long as [Hiscox is] there, I don't stand a chance," Pitzulo said.
About 60 people attended Wednesday's school board meeting, including many parents and former baseball players who support Pitzulo.
Coach's suspicions: Pitzulo thinks Hiscox made his recommendation at the behest of board member Chuck Eddy, board lawyer Marshall Buck, and Jack Kucek, a former assistant varsity coach at the high school.
Eddy's son and Kucek's son were members of the junior varsity team last season, and Buck's son played on the freshman squad.
Neither Eddy nor Kucek liked the role their sons played on the team, Pitzulo said. Eddy's son was a reserve player, Pitzulo said, and Kucek's son was assigned to play for the freshmen in the middle of the season.
Pitzulo also said he feels Buck was worried about his son's prospects on the junior varsity next year.
As a result, Pitzulo thinks Buck, Kucek, and Eddy urged Hiscox to recommend against renewing the contract. He added that he does not feel the Canfield Baseball Club was behind the recommendation, as was suggested by a parent Wednesday night.
Response: Buck, Kucek and Eddy, meanwhile, each said they had nothing to do with Hiscox's recommendation.
"I don't care who the coach is, as long as he knows baseball and he's good for the kids," Buck said. "Why my name is coming up, I have no idea."
Kucek added that he thinks the dispute is not setting a good example for the students.
Pitzulo, however, said he is committed to the well-being of his players. He said that as a coach, he tries to teach his players about responsibility and standing up for what they believe in.
He also noted that he has donated his coaching salary to the baseball program during the last several years.
"It's not just winning and losing that counts," he said.
Supporter: Board member Anne Davis said that if the rest of the board members have the best interests of Canfield's students at heart, they will renew Pitzulo's contract.
"I think it's probably what's best for the kids," she said.
Davis attended part of a board executive session Wednesday to discuss Pitzulo's contract. Pitzulo, who also attended the session, said he met with Hiscox earlier this month to discuss his contract.
At that meeting, Hiscox said he had received letters from parents complaining about Pitzulo, the coach said. Pitzulo said Hiscox would not let him see the letters.
Pitzulo said he also asked to see the letters during the executive session. Pitzulo and Davis said, however, that Hiscox said he never received any letters. Instead, Hiscox said that some parents had expressed verbal concerns about their lack of communication with Pitzulo.
School board policy prohibits coaches from talking about playing time with parents, Pitzulo said, adding that several board members said they disagreed with that policy Wednesday night.
Davis eventually walked out of the executive session in frustration. She was later seen with tears in her eyes.
"I was not going to be part of the character assassination and twisting of words," Davis said. "There was no attempt to let Sam maintain his dignity."
Pitzulo said he walked out of the executive session when the board talked about no longer allowing volunteers to work in the schools. By donating his salary to the team, Pitzulo essentially was a volunteer coach.
"I thought, enough's enough. I don't need this," he said.