Revere High School parents, football players and community members turned out in force Tuesday to learn more about the district's decision to remove all of the school's football coaches from their posts.
The nine coaches — two of whom are staff members — admitted to drinking alcohol at an offseason football camp — a violation of school and state codes of conduct, officials said.
Many in the audience spoke in support of the coaches. A Change.org petition titled “Help the Revere football team keep their coaching staff from being terminated” had more than 160 signatures Tuesday afternoon, with a goal of 200.
Superintendent Matthew Montgomery recommended to the school board that former Revere High School football coach Terry Cistone return to coach the Minutemen for the 2019 season, which the board unanimously approved Tuesday.
“The degree to which these coaches were consuming alcohol is not a deciding factor here,” Montgomery said. “The issue is that our coaches engaged in the consumption of alcohol while participating in a school-related activity. This is a great group of coaches, but the standard is clearly defined. We cannot permit or condone the consumption of any alcohol by coaches while in charge of students.”
Cistone replaces James Boyeas, who completed his first season as coach in 2018, leading the Minutemen to a 6-4 record.
Boyeas and his staff of eight coaches were removed following an investigation of alleged inadequate supervision of students at the camp June 10-12 at Heidelberg University in Tiffin.
They all were placed on leave while the matter was under investigation June 11-20.
The board on Tuesday unanimously approved supplemental contracts for the 2019-2020 school year for Cistone as the head varsity coach and Jeff Dallas, Dave Flegal, Phil Heyn, Brian Li, Mike Murphey and Pete Rahas as assistant varsity coaches.
The new coaches are all previous members of the district’s football coaching staff, with Cistone, Heyn and Murphey all serving as past head coaches.
The coaches consumed alcohol on the lower level of the dorm where students were staying on the night of June 10, Montgomery said. No students were injured or involved.
“Our coaches brought alcohol to a dry campus,” he said. “They disposed of the empty alcohol canisters on private property. One of them engaged in other highly inappropriate conduct at that time.”
Montgomery said university officials contacted Revere officials June 11 and said the former coaches were “allegedly drinking alcohol at the time when they were responsible for student supervision.”
Montgomery said after an investigation, he confirmed those allegations were true through statements and admissions from the coaches, as well as photos from surveillance footage. Students were not interviewed because they weren't involved, he said.
Montgomery said Revere Athletic Director Tom McKinnon went to the campus June 11, but students were allowed to remain for the rest of the camp because McKinnon confirmed with the coaches the incident wouldn’t happen again.
Montgomery said the coaches violated “several codes of conduct,” including one from the Ohio Department of Education and a Revere school board policy prohibiting possession or use of alcohol at district-related activities or events when staff members are in charge of students.
Montgomery also said the district couldn’t release details of the investigation while it was ongoing. He said now that it's completed, he could share details.
“This was not due to a lack of transparency on the part of the district,” he said. “Rather, we were dealing with in-house personnel issues.”
The district announced June 12 that high school football practices would be on hiatus until further notice. Montgomery said they’ll resume Monday, July 1. A youth football camp scheduled last week at the high school was canceled, with parents receiving a refund.
Several parents said the district mishandled the incident, from the board not approving the overnight trip and no one checking bags before the trip to the district releasing a vague news release on the same day the camp ended.
Montgomery said those issues will be “evaluated” but added they’re “ancillary” to the main incident.
Many parents at Tuesday’s meeting said the coaches should have received some sort of reprimand or suspension, but they shouldn’t have lost their coaching positions over the incident.
Parent and grandparent Ray Slattery said the punishment was too severe.
“Yes, OK, alcohol's involved. That happens,” he said. “They made a mistake. Sure, it was dumb. But you've given them the death penalty. That's not right.”
Parent Gale Luther said Montgomery, McKinnon and board members should resign.
“The inadequate supervision begins and ends with you and the school board,” Luther told Montgomery and the board.
Bath resident Jody Miller Konstand, who works as a correspondent for the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com, was one of few who spoke in support of the administration, saying the coaches were “role models for your boys” who “didn’t do what I would expect a coach and a role model to do and to provide.”
After Konstand spoke past the board-set five-minute limit, the auditorium devolved into a shouting match that drew a Bath police officer and caused the meeting to adjourn for several minutes.
At the end of the meeting, Hayden Hajdu, a Revere graduate and parent who coaches youth football, encouraged parents to come together as a community to move forward and get ready for the season.
He acknowledged the difficulty of losing Boyeas, “who you could really get behind and a guy that was probably bringing in something that we thought was really good culture,” and the board's "hard decision.”
“If it weren't for these guys stepping up, you might have an issue,” Hajdu said of the new coaching staff. “You might not have a program.”
Beacon Journal reporter Michael Beaven and correspondent Fred Cay contributed reporting to this article. Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.