TWINSBURG — Reinstate Brian Fantone.
This was the refrain among those who attended the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting, including 12 who spoke at the meeting, urging the school board to bring back the district's athletic director as soon as possible.
On Oct. 18, the school board voted 4-1 to place Fantone, the district's athletic director since 2015, on paid leave. Board member Kathy Turle-Waldron cast the dissenting vote. Fantone, who also serves as coordinator for K-12 activities, was assigned to work from home for an undefined period, according to the legislation.
Fantone’s contract was renewed in May, to run through July 31, 2020. He previously served as the R.B. Chamberlin Middle School athletic director and a social studies teacher there, and was selected as the new athletic director for the Twinsburg City School District July 1, 2015.
Bill Schumacher, the district’s former athletic director, is serving as interim director, said Superintendent Kathryn Powers. According to the contract approved by the board Nov. 1, Schumacher is paid $345 per day as an administrative substitute.
Twinsburg High School student Grant Boyes called Fantone "an excellent athletic director."
"He has hired the right coaches and staff for many sporting events, including John Garber, who just led the girls soccer team to district runner-up which is the farthest they've ever gone," Boyes said, referring to the team's Oct. 23 1-0 win over the Hudson Explorer's team.
Boyes said he had Fantone for social studies when he was in seventh grade.
"As a student with the vast interest in the subject, he was helpful in my pursuit to learn as much as I could," he said. "For students maybe not that interested, Mr. Fantone taught a thought-provoking and fun class. He demonstrated a fantastic teaching ability for every student."
It was disappointing not to have Fantone at Senior Night, Boyes said.
"He did not get the opportunity to congratulate us, and we could not get the opportunity to thank him for the service that he has done," he said. "Not being able to shake his hand and thank him for my class’ success and athletics was a great disappointment. My solution, and the one I hope you decide, would be for my class to be able to walk across EJ Thomas Hall on May 22 and shake his hand as our athletic director."
Stacey Brazie of Twinsburg said Powers and the school board "have made the Twinsburg City School District an embarrassment with the possible termination of an integral part of our schools athletes and students."
"Mr. Fantone's presence has been missed every day by students, including my high school athletes board members," Brazie said. "You are elected by the community to be our voice. I think our voice has been loud and clear. That voice will also be loud and clear the next time a levy rolls around. Please do the right thing and bring back Brian Fantone. Changes need to be made elsewhere to get this school district back on track, and Brian Fantone is not the problem."
However, David Andrews, a Twinsburg resident and a former Board of Education member, said he would caution the community to "take a deep breath."
"Recognize you don't have all the facts, and trust that your neighbors — and yes all of these people are your neighbors — have taken the time to serve their community by becoming members of the Board of Education and will do what is best for the district and its students."
Andrews, who served on the school board for nine years, said that when he was on the board, he and the board members at the time had to terminate "a popular coach and teacher."
"That process was not unlike what I've been watching play out over the last several weeks with Mr. Fantone," Andrews said. "Back then like now, there were angry groups of community members urging the board to keep the teacher. At that time I was exceedingly frustrated, as I'm sure you are now, by the fact that I could not disclose what I had learned about the situation in an executive session while rumors circulated in the community that were either half-truths or at times straight out lies. Based on that experience I can assure everyone in this community that no one on this board, no one in this administration relishes the decision they have to make."