Parents accuse West coach of rule violations, verbal abuse

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Parents say lacrosse coach Tom Slate broke PIAA rules, endangered athletes

By Kyle CarrozzaStaff Writer, The Times

Teachers Kelly Kinderman, Joan Amstutz, and Celia Preston are awarded for having perfect attendance last year.

Teachers Kelly Kinderman, Joan Amstutz, and Celia Preston are awarded for having perfect attendance last year.

DOWNINGTOWN – Multiple parents and one former student athlete accused Downingtown West lacrosse coach Tom Slate of violating Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) regulations and verbally abusing players at the Downingtown Area School District’s school board meeting Wednesday night.

One parent said that after being denied multiple requests to meet with District Superintendent Dr. Lawrence Mussoline, he and eight other parents met with Director of K-12 Education Dr. Robert Reed and Thomas Mulvey, West’s principal at the time and current Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center Principal.

“Compelling evidence regarding the violation of multiple PIAA rules by the Lacrosse coach, the abusive language, humiliation of athletes, and overall conduct of this coach, which clearly endangered the health and well being of these student athletes, was presented in this hour plus meeting,” the parent said in a letter to the school board.

Attached to that letter was an email allegedly from now retired Head Athletic Trainer Joe Iezzi to District Athletic Director Jack Helm. In the email, which was dated May of last year, Iezzi discusses “serious concerns” regarding lacrosse practices that took place on weekends without trainers present. Also in the email, Iezzi said that he wrote it to Helm and copied it to Mussoline, Mulvey, School Board President Jane Bertone, District CFO Richard Fazio, and West Assistant Athletic Director Kim Copelman because “nothing has really been resolved” after he discussed the issue with Helm.

Parents said that the coach held 4-5 hour practices “with total disregard for academics.” The former student athlete who spoke agreed, saying that Slate would text students during school, disrupting their education. He also said that Slate would keep the athletes in practice during thunderstorms, a violation of PIAA rules and humiliate athletes for being injured.

“He would single kids out, and instead of complimenting them when they did good, he would only point out the bad things he did. He was just disrespectful to his players,” he said. “If kids were injured, he would be made at them even though they couldn’t help not being able to play.” The former student athlete said that Slate would often hold grudges against students for being injured.

Addressing the Board, the student athlete said that while on the lacrosse team, he never found the same sense of family he found playing other sports.

“He [Slate] doesn’t deserve to be at Downingtown West. He doesn’t deserve to be a Whippet,” the athlete said.

Parents also voiced their disapproval with the district’s lack of action in response to parents’ input.

After requesting two meetings with Mussoline, one parent said that Reed emailed him to say that the district had resolved the issue, though parents felt otherwise.

“It became clear to me at this point that there was no actual interest in discovering the truth,” said the letter to the Board.

The parent said that after the eventual meeting with Reed and Mulvey, the district was more concerned with damage control than resolving the situation. In addition, another parent who attended the meeting said that the coach was driving around the parking lot during the meeting. When an administrator invited him into the meeting, the coach declined and left.

“I think they need new leadership at the school, period. Because they were involved all the way to the top during the process. There’s a clear internal good old boy network that’s going on in Downingtown without respect to the parents and the students most importantly,” he said.

The letter to the Board requested a “proper investigation” into the situation.

Once parents finished speaking, the Board requested that District Solicitor Guy Donatelli investigate the grievances. Donatelli exchanged contact information with parents.

Prohibited from speaking on personnel matters, Bertone called the situation “a serious concern.”

“The welfare of our students is our primary concern; that’s why we made the decision to have our solicitor investigate it.

All parents and the former student athlete requested that their names be withheld.

Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center staff gains recognition for their role in opening the school.

Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center staff gains recognition for their role in opening the school.

At the beginning of Wednesday night’s meeting, Superintendent Mussoline asked attendees to observe a moment of silence for Bradford Heights Principal Mike Solon who died this past weekend. School Board President Bertone thanked the Bradford Heights staff and students for handling the situation so well and continuing into their capacities as students and teachers.

“Mike Solon was the heart and soul of Bradford Heights,” she said.

The District appointed Bob Clegg, who has previously served as a principal in the district, to take Solon’s place.

District CFO Fazio said that the district is still working on finalizing bus routes for the school year. He said that a number of factors, including the opening of the Sixth Grade Center, redistricting, and a new bell schedule has caused packed buses and long rides for some students. He said that the district will continue to examine options for routes, and by next week, they should be close to finalized for the year.

The district also recognized two sets of personnel at Wednesday’s meeting.

20 teachers were recognized for not using any personal or sick days during the 2013-14 school year. Of them, Celia Preston, Kelly Kinderman, and Joan Amstutz showed up, leading school board members to joke that the others were probably still at school.

The district also recognized and awarded facilities staff, custodians, office staff, and administrators responsible for ensuring that the Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center opened in time for the new year.

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One Comment

  1. Brandyn says:

    Slate is an excellent coach. Yes he can be tough on his players however, who isn’t. If you were to go to any other practice you would see the same thing. The parents who complained are probably the parents
    who spoil there kids and make sure if something isn’t going their kids way, that they make sure it does. Parents these days need to stop giving their children everything they want and need to start realizing that they aren’t preparing their children for the real world. What the parents said about Slate is rude and wrong. He was a great coach when he coached me and still is. I hope I can have him as a Coach again in the near future.