ASTON — Ernie Colantonio wants to stay on as the girls volleyball coach at Sun Valley High School. He reapplied for his job and, according to him, has the support of athletic director Joel Alutius, principal Pete Donaghy and Dr. George Steinhoff, superintendent of schools for the Penn-Delco School District.
Judging by the show of force at Wednesday night's school board meeting, his returning players and their parents, along with several former players and their parents, want Colantonio back, too.
The school board, however, does not. As the Vanguards players and their parents found out, the board has the final say.
Last month, the board elected not to renew Colantonio's one-year supplemental contract in a 6-2 vote, according to several sources. It was a decision no one saw coming.
"We didn't find out about it until the next day," said junior Emily Stokarski, who was one of eight current or former players who spoke in support of Colantonio. "We found out about it through word of mouth."
Word quickly spread that a vote on a replacement was scheduled for Wednesday night, which is why so many people showed up, most in support of Colantonio. But a few were there to support the board's decision to not renew his contract.
The vote was pulled off the agenda because the board had not received a recommendation for a replacement, according to school board president Kevin Tinsley. He said the job will be reposted Thursday and the board will vote on a new coach at a special meeting July 30.
That did not please about 30 people who packed the small conference room in the School District Services Building for the school board meeting Wednesday night. They wanted to know why Colantonio was let go after six seasons as the head coach and eight with the program overall.
They left with more questions than answers.
"I have advised the board that it should not comment on personnel matters," school district solicitor Michael Puppio Jr. said.
The parents and the players have their suspicions as to why Colantonio was let go after guiding the Vanguards to the quarterfinal round of the District One Class AAA playoffs last fall.
"It's a personal vendetta," said one parent, who asked not to be identified.
Colantonio said the school received a complaint following the season from the parent of one of the players. He would not say what that complaint was or who lodged it, but he said the matter was investigated and the administration felt that no disciplinary action was warranted.
However, several sources said the complaint was brought by Dawn Jones, a member of the school board and the mother of All-Delco player Chelsea Jones, who graduated in June.
Robyn Romesburg, mother of a returning player Jocelyn Romesburg, asked Dawn Jones directly during the public comments portion of the meeting if she cared to explain the board's vote to dismiss Colantonio last month.
"No," Jones said.
"It's a question of ethics," Romesburg said. "Is the board being fair and ethical in this matter? Should a board member with a direct conflict of interest be voting? We don't think so."
Colantonio does not want to point fingers. His concern is for his players. Time is short. Practice is scheduled to start Aug. 11 and the Vanguards are slated to open the season Aug. 29 against Strath Haven, one of the top teams in the county and district over the last several years.
"I'm not worried about myself," Colantonio said. "I'll be fine. Do I want to be the coach at Sun Valley? Yes, I do. But if the board decides otherwise, I'll get through it. The people this really affects are the kids. They're the only ones hurt by things like this."