Canton Local’s volleyball coach is without a job after a split vote by the board of education decided not to renew her contract.
Erin Cole is the coach, she’s also the wife of school board member Chris Cole.
The vote not to renew Mrs. Cole’s contract was 2-1, with members Chris Cole and Rick Knight not voting on the item. School board President Scott Hamilton, along with Annette Davis, voted to not renew the contract. Board member Thomas Kovesci voted to retain Mrs. Cole.
Mr. Cole claims Mr. Hamilton called him Feb. 13 and asked him to resign from his position on the board of education; and because of his decision not to resign, he voted against his wife’s contract.
“During this 19 minute phone call Mr. Hamilton tried to bribe me into resigning. Not with money or position, but by assuring me certain guarantees,” Mr. Cole said as he addressed the public and the board of education Monday night. “Those guarantees were that my name would be added to the brass plaque at the new middle school, that no one would mess with Erin’s coaching contract, and that I could personally hand my daughter her diploma upon graduation.”
Mr. Hamilton said he did make a phone call to Mr. Cole on the 13th, but his wife’s coaching contract was not the reason for the call.
“The bribery discussion did not take place. Mr. Cole completely fabricated it to misdirect the general public away from the real issues,” Hamilton said. “Any board member in Stark County will tell you that no single board member has the power to make the ridiculous promises that he claimed were made to him.”
Mr. Hamilton said the nature of the phone call was to discuss: sexual harassment allegations made against Mr. Cole from a staff member in 2018, an email that included disparaging comments regarding members of Canton Local’s administrative team.
“I also reminded Mr. Cole that if he didn’t comply with the ethics of a board member, I would have the board consider further action,” Mr. Hamilton added.
The sexual harassment allegation was investigated and unfounded, according to Mr. Cole.
“Mr. Hamilton has attempted to resurface an unfounded 2018 allegation against me and use that in his latest attempt to provide a smokescreen as a result of his own gross and non becoming actions as a Board member,” he said. “…The findings of the investigation involving this baseless allegation was proven unfounded from 2018.”
According to Mr. Hamilton, the reason he was in favor of not renewing Mrs. Cole’s coaching contract was because of complaints regarding “favoritism, bullying, & harassment.”
Superintendent Brett Yeagley and Athletic Director Matt Dennison recommended Mrs. Cole’s contract be renewed.
“Coach Erin Cole was our recommendation for the head volleyball coach. That recommendation was not supported,” Mr. Yeagley said. “We would like to thank Coach Cole for everything she has done for Canton South Volleyball. We wish her nothing but the best, but are now working hard to find our next volleyball coach to support our student athletes at Canton South High School.”
Mr. Cole said there was ‘not a single complaint’ against his wife as the district’s varsity volleyball coach.
“Make no mistake, he is a proven liar and this action was a direct attack on me,” Mr. Cole claimed.
Mr. Cole said he is an outspoken board member and wants to hold his fellow members accountable.
“Because of my public stance against the groupthink of members of this board of education for their 20 plus years of no accountability – I have been made a public enemy by Mr. Hamilton,” he said. “My family has endured an onslaught of rumors and attacks on my character. My children have been affected and now my wife has been affected.”
Mr. Hamilton stands by the board’s decision not to renew the contract of the volleyball coach.
“My decision protected future volleyball players at Canton South,” he added. “I have had an enormous amount of support from the Canton South community regarding it.”