Editor,

I write this letter with a heavy heart. I have been involved with football as a player and coach for over 20 years. For the last five years, I have worked with the excellent coaches at Athens Area High School, who not only focus on making great football players, but making great men for our community. As all of the current coaches do, I have donated countless hours to help shape future leaders and workers in our Valley. I am extremely proud of our many successes both on and off the field.

I have donated 100 percent of my time to the district as a coach at Athens. This has included time at the youth, junior high and varsity levels, at times all in the same day. Throughout my years on staff, I have been to every possible game and have adjusted my work schedule to facilitate being at practices as much as possible. I have also helped with the summer weightlifting program for numerous years and have given up countless billable hours to help lead young men by a positive example.

Recently, I resigned my coaching position because of a systematic failure of leadership that is displayed in the Athens Area Schools. I have had few occasions in dealing with this administration, but in each, leaders failed to get to the bottom of issues and lied to cover for each other with regularity. Speaking with other stakeholders in the community, these leaders have repeatedly shown a lack of due process and dishonest behavior when dealing with students, parents, and even staff. Our kids are being shown by example that nepotism and bullying are the norm for leaders, and what they should expect.

Two years ago, I was involved with a situation where a student athlete was concussed during a junior high football game. Play was not stopped and the student suffered long-lasting effects of the injury. I was deemed to be ‘going overboard’ in the protection of our player in calling to the officiating crew that the boy was hurt badly by an illegal play. For that event, I faced Athens Area School discipline. All I asked for was for them to meet with me and review the film, where it clearly showed the egregious injury to our player. I wanted this tape to go to the PIAA for educational purposes, to guide our discussion of the event and show our leaders what I saw, but I was given the run-around at every turn. Instead of protecting someone who was simply trying to protect our players, they targeted me without any due process or proper investigation.

We encountered more inept leadership at Athens just recently. My stepson is a hard worker and currently a senior at Athens. For the last three years, he has told us stories that made us question the leadership in the building, but we took it with a grain of salt. However recently, while struggling to find academic focus to finish his time at Athens, my same stepson was presented with a drop out form by the principal just days from his own graduation. That despicable event was not done with any parental input, communication, or request for meetings to discuss interventions, but as a stunt in front of other children. My step-son was humiliated. When we, as parents, tried to get to the bottom of the event, we were flat out lied to and misled about other staff’s involvement in the matter.

What drove me to resign my coaching position publicly, is the lack of due process and total absence of checks and balances within leadership at Athens High. Yours and my hard-earned tax dollars are being sent to a system where the only truth is the one decided upon by the leadership team, not what is the result of due process and fact. I cannot, in good conscience, stand by or stand with a system that humiliates students and does not use the truth as a foundation of action and policy. I would encourage all citizens to please reach out to their school board members to ensure checks and balances are in place, and due process for all is the standard at AASD.

Bill Johnston

Athens

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