LAKEGEORGE-Dozens of students, parents and community members turned out for a Lake George School Board meeting Tuesday, June 14 to protest the board's recent decision not to re-appoint Joel Gordon as girls soccer coach and assistant track coach at the school.
About a dozen students and parents aired their objections to the board's decision, characterizing Gordon as a dedicated, inspiring coach full of enthusiasm.
Gordon has led his soccer teams to a string of unprecedented league championships since he began coaching in 2008.
To date, the board has refused to disclose why they are seeking to replace Gordon, and they haven't told him any reason, as well, he said Monday night.
Pat Flaherty, a parent of a student, said Gordon was an outstanding coach, and the board should reverse their decision, which she said had "hurt and devastated" the team members. "Joel Gordon is a gentle and kind man," she said. "He has earned the utmost respect form parents and students, and he has been treated unjustly. We deserve so much better from the board, and so do our children."
Sophie Bruno, a student, said Gordon coached with energy and enthusiasm.
"He's able to really connect with all the kids," she said, noting he was involved in community charitable events, and he encouraged students to do so also.
Bruno said he set an example of leadership, devotion and personal discipline that was an inspiration to her and her peers.
"I intend to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in high school athletics," she said.
Senior Caroline Murphy said Gordon had earned utmost respect from students and parents.
"He possesses qualities of extreme trust and character, traits our administration has strayed from after this incident," she said, calling for the school board reverse their decision, and in doing so, live up to the school's tradition which stresses integrity and honesty.
Senior Kelly Flaherty said it was "inspiring" to watch Gordon sprinting near the track to prompt runners to compete with utmost effort.
"If Gordon's dedication, devotion and enthusiasm is not a 'good fit' for Lake George, then the problem does not lie with Mr. Gordon, but instead with the administration's opinion of what a 'good fit' really is."
She said Gordon's conduct had never elicited a single complaint, unlike other members of the faculty who have been reprimanded for inappropriate behavior.
She said Gordon might be facing termination because he showed extraordinary commitment to athletes, rather than being a "puppet for the administration."
Her speech, which was greeted by a standing ovation form the crowd, prompted a response from school board president Naomi O'Reilly that she'd shut down public comment if negativity was aired again.
A parent said other coaches and teachers in Lake George schools now wonder whether they'd be next, facing termination without stated, justifiable reasons.
Following the public meeting the board convened an executive session citing their intent to discuss a personnel issue concerning "a particular employee."
During open session, they reviewed their latest 2011-12 budget proposal, crafted after their initial spending plan was rejected by voters in May.
Their new plan calls for spending $20,343,279, a $333,057 increase, or a 1.66 percent hike over 2010-11. The tax levy, it is estimated, will increase by 2.84 percent.
The public is to vote on the new budget June 21.