By christine keeling
Canfield High School has replaced Ronalyn Haurin as the girls softball coach, after years of parental complaints.
The school district wants to go in a “new direction,” said Greg Cooper, athletic director. After sorting through 13 applicants, the district decided that Ray Melewski of Canfield will lead the team.
“Parents, many of who have been stridently against Haurin, are wrong,” said Cooper. “But we want to start with a fresh look.”
A new coach will help the district develop stability within the program and move on without any malice, he said. “Melewski offer-ed us the combination of desire, enthusiasm and coaching knowledge.”
Melewski has coached junior varsity for Howland and travel teams, he said.
Cooper also said he believes the new coach will put the best possible team on the field while developing a strong rapport with parents and the community.
Haurin coached for the district since the 2000-01 year and led the Cardinals to a Division II state softball title in 2008 and the school’s volleyball team to the regional semifinals this year.
But for almost all of Haurin’s six-year tenure as a softball coach, some parents of players leveled complaints about mistreatment and called for the district to replace her, public records show.
She declined to comment.
Records also show Haurin complained about the behavior of softball players’ parents. She indicated, in letters, that parents inappropriately questioned coaching decisions, shouted out at games and instilled negativity in players.
Records generated by Cooper show more than 15 parents and students attended a meeting with him to discuss Haurin in 2006, and at least one parent of a softball player expressed concern in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Cooper said he receives complaints about every coach and initiates reviews in every case. If the matter is not resolved, it can then move to the schools superintendent before reaching board members.
Dante Zambrini, superintendent, and Cooper said they believe the complaints against Haurin have centered around parents’ unhappiness with their child’s softball playing time, placement and position.
Records and letters submitted to the district indicate parents also have complained about the coach’s cutting off communication to select players or not communicating effectively, giving preferential treatment, criticizing players in public and mismanaging fundraising accounts.
Haurin is a physical education teacher at C.H. Campbell Elementary School and has been employed by the district for more than 15 years. A determination on whether she will continue coaching volleyball won’t be made until this summer, Cooper said.
Haurin “was very caring, worked diligently and expected a lot from her girls,” Cooper said. “She hadn’t been able to develop a rapport with the parents.”
Melissa Hyde filed a lawsuit Oct. 31 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court seeking damages of $100 per day up to $1,000 from the Canfield school board for not fulfilling a public-records request seeking disciplinary and personnel records for Cooper and Haurin, as well as all complaints concerning the school’s softball team and its coach.
She stated in the suit that she “has a good-faith belief that her daughter has been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by Haurin and that many other students and parents have complained about Haurin, but the school board is concealing this pattern and therefore concealing these requested records as well.”
To fulfill the request, the district compiled more than 1,600 documents.
Donald Gallick, Hyde’s lawyer, is questioning whether everything has been provided. A letter outlining their concerns has been sent to the district’s attorney, he said.
“Regardless of the substance of the records, citizens keeping an eye on the government is what the Ohio public-records law was designed to do,” Gallick said.
Besides Cooper’s records and parent letters, many emails between district employees were included.
Former board member Renee Gessner said she was frustrated June 7 when she emailed Zambrini stating she would not support a supplemental contract renewal for Haurin. Gessner’s term ended Jan. 1.
All one-year supplemental contracts in the district, which include coaching, are terminated in April and refilled the following school year.
Gessner wrote, in part, to Zambrini:
“If I see Ronie Haurin’s name listed for volleyball or softball, I will vote ‘no’ for her hiring. I will also make sure that I call all the parents past and present that have dealt with this problem, to be in attendance at the board meeting. If The Vindicator and all three stations want to know why I voted “no” on this coach, I will speak out on the issue of bullying. I will have a prepared statement expressing my coaching philosophy and that our administration appears to be more concerned with protecting coaches than our students.”
Gessner, asked about her email, said she never saw bullying by Haurin, Instead, she said, Haurin’s coaching style was one she didn’t agree with and wondered why the district would deal with the “abrupt” style when it continued to cause issues.
“I have heard friends complain about a coach, but it doesn’t make it to the board.” said Gessner. “It came to the board three times, and that’s what became the red flag for me.”
In the email, Gessner listed 2007, 2009 and 2011 as the years in which the matters regarding Haurin reached the board.
It was not the first time she expressed concern for Canfield athletics.
In 2008, Gessner wrote to Cooper, Zambrini and board member Anthony Peluso, “It saddens me that there are student athletes who feel that if they express their concerns to their coach that they will be penalized,” it stated.
Still, Gessner and all other board members voted during a June 30 special meeting to approve Haurin as volleyball coach for the 2011-12 season. Gessner said she voted “yes” because she had never heard any complaints about volleyball.
She understood, at the time, that the administration was doing an investigation into softball, she said.
No public records or a summary report exist from interviews Zambrini and/or Cooper conducted during June with several players of the 2010-11 softball team and their parents. Zambrini said he did not keep records because he didn’t want them to be public.