Parents, players speak in support of Ringgold soccer coach

February 16, 2017
A crowd of students and parents gathered in support of Ringgold soccer coach Steven Persaud. - Morgan Cushey/For the Observer-Reporter Order a Print

NEW EAGLE – Ringgold School Board tabled the hiring of seven fall sports coaches for 2017 after hearing from a number of soccer players and parents who attended Wednesday’s meeting in support of high school boys soccer coach Steven Persaud, one of those whose contract was up for renewal.

Tony Bottino, parent of two freshmen soccer players, said Persaud was section coach of the year in his first year of coaching and has a passion for the game.

“He places an emphasis on education. Our soccer program has the highest GPA I think of any athletic group in this school,” Bottino said.

“I think he’s turning young boys into young men.” Bottino added, and he is teaching responsibility.

“They learn that there is value to show up to practice. They learn that there is value to work hard. And that’s above and beyond the sport,” Bottino said. He said Persaud also teaches the team achievement is earned through work and dedication, not because of grade level. He claimed there are some who have a “vendetta” against Persaud.

“In today’s society where everybody gets a trophy, this type of coaching may not be popular, but I like it,” Bottino said.

Bottino’s sons Andrew and Dominic Bottino also addressed the board. “I’ve learned a lot from him and I think he’s a very good coach,” Andrew Bottino said.

Ken Norfleet, whose youngest son has played under Persaud for two years, also addressed the board. “Steve is very fair and he doesn’t play favorites or anything like that,” Norfleet said. He said there are people who are frustrated Persaud doesn’t play favorites.

He said the board should keep in the mind the type of message it will send if it is not willing to renew the contract of a coach who not only won section coach of the year but also was in the playoffs with a predominately freshman and sophomore roster.

Derek Lowstetter, another player’s father, said Persaud led an initiative to contact college coaches in order to open communication and help with recruitment and scholarship opportunities for the players. Lowstetter said more than 300 universities were contacted and promising feedback was received from more than 70 coaches. He said several of the coaches asked for video on some of the top soccer players.

Lowstetter said in Persaud’s first season as coach, he started six freshman on the varsity team and this year started five freshmen.

“This is relatively unheard of in high school athletics and shows that with Steve, the best kids will play regardless,” Lowstetter said.

The board tabled the vote on the fall sports coaching contracts and Superintendent Karen Polkabla said it will meet at 6 p.m. March 1 in the administration building to vote on this matter and other business.

Polkabla said the administration is taking into consideration input from all sides and receiving input regarding more than one coach. William Stein Jr., board president, said the board made the decision to take input on the matter and is not yet ready to vote.

Scott Goetz, owner and chief instructor of Full Circle Karate, addressed the board with his concerns about the district’s bullying policy. As a karate instructor in Monongahela for over 20 years, Goetz said he has taught hundreds of Ringgold students. He said he is often asked for advice on bullying and is asked what to do about the bullying when the school refuses to do anything.

“I’ve had to explain to too many young people and their parents why they get into trouble for defending themselves, for standing up and saying no to bullying,” he said.

Goetz said there is apathy within the school district, even when complaints are made to teachers, administrators and security. “The parents feel that the policies are insufficient,” Goetz said, adding the victims are punished in the same way as the bullies.

“It is not a part of the bullying policy to punish students in the same way. That is not a part of the bullying policy,” Polkabla responded.

“It’s time for us to look at our policy,” she added. She said a committee headed by high school principal Jason Minniti, who will be joined by board member James Dodd, will be formed to review and revise the current bullying policy.

“I hope to develop a policy that will better address the needs of the students,” Polkabla said. She said those interested in joining the committee can email her at: kpolkabla@ringgold.org or can contact their school’s principal.

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