The board voted not to renew the supplemental

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The board voted not to renew the supplemental contracts of athletic director Kathy Baker and boys soccer coach Marc Streem, leaving the school without a principal or A.D. to screen candidates and make hiring decisions to fill a slew of existing coaching vacancies.

So what's the board's next move?

"We're in a tough spot," board member Norman Reynolds readily admitted. "We need to move quickly. We need to begin looking for a new principal real soon ... that's our primary concern at this point."

"We realize the timing couldn't be worse, but I couldn't let that be a factor in my decision," board president Tom Siciliano added. "I can't make my decision based on timing or based on pressure from some members of the community, and I won't. Because if I did, I wouldn't be fulfilling my duties as a board member appropriately."

Baker and Streem both openly questioned the board's decision to effectively relieve them of their duties.

"How could the board do something like this," said Streem. "The principal has already left, and now they lose a quality A.D. who has done a great job of bringing in coaches. This year (first-year coaches) Dan Bailey turned the wrestling program around, Greg Bryte led the boys basketball team to an undefeated (league) season, and Matt Collins did a great job with a young baseball team. Our (participation) numbers are up across the board ... I have 45 kids out for soccer, which is incredible for a school our size. So I must not have done a bad job either."

Baker, a high school health teacher who has served as athletic director for the past three years, was stunned by Monday's turn of events.

"I'm shocked and disappointed, because I really felt we made a lot of strides the past three years," she said. "(Her dismissal) was never a discussed topic. Obviously, I made decisions that they didn't care for, but they were never discussed with me. I only made the decisions I felt were right, and I stand by them to this day."

Reynolds didn't elaborate on those issues involving Baker that the board took exception with, but described the athletic department as "out of control."

"This is one step in bringing things back in control," he said.

Streem also claims he was never given the opportunity to discuss his dismissal, although he believes he knows what led to the decision.

"There were a couple of issues that occurred last season," said Streem. "First, during a very physical game against Waterloo, I used the f-word. It wasn't directed toward anyone; I was talking to myself, but I guess it was overheard.

"Some other physical things occurred during the game ... one of my kids was taken down hard, and he tried to retaliate with a punch. I don't let those things happen, so I benched him and some other kids. One of those kids' mothers happens to be the president of the Booster Club (Marta Smolk), and she's a very powerful woman. She took it up with the board, and some people started to turn against me.

"I was also a vocal supporter of starting a girls soccer program, and that didn't endear me to the board either. But I can't say for sure why they saw fit to go against me, even though I went in with the recommendations of the A.D., superintendent and the principal ... on a personal note, I feel the board had a private agenda."

Reynolds confirmed that foul language caused him to vote against Streem.

"My reason is that the use of offensive language at kids is inappropriate and not very professional," said Reynolds. "That's been my reason all along."

"I don't condone my behavior," said Streem, "but I've been in sports for years and I've had my fair share of coaches cuss at me. Coaches cuss all the time. They're just making me a scapegoat."

Streem coached the Rovers' inaugural boys soccer team four years ago, and has led the squad to Portage County League championships the past two seasons.

"I feel I leave with my integrity. I have nothing to be ashamed of," said Streem, a Rootstown resident who works as a registered nurse at Robinson Memorial Hospital. "This has gone on for four months, and the number of parents, students and members of the community who have stuck their necks out for me tells me I did nothing wrong. I just hope the actions of the board don't destroy what has taken so many people so long to build."

Will Streem or Baker take action against the board?

"I won't, because to do so would be detrimental to the program and the kids," said Streem. "This has gone on too long already, and taking action would just drag things out longer."

"I'll be back in the classroom," said Baker. "I'll continue on. I just feel bad for the kids ... a lot of things are left hanging that are going to hurt them."

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