In a room full of Canton Local school community members, the Board of Education was addressed by a concerned community member and by Erin Cole, the now-former Head Volleyball Coach for the Lady Wildcats, and her father – all vocalized concerns about the split decision that led to the non-renewal of Coach Cole’s contract.
Cole’s coaching contract was not renewed at the March 21 board meeting. Board president Scott Hamilton cited the reason for his vote against Cole’s contract was due to allegations of favoritism, bullying and harassment. Board member Annette Davis also voted against the renewal of Coach Cole’s contract.
A month after losing her job as the volleyball coach, Coach Cole and others continue to publicly question the decision.
During the April Board of Education meeting Monday, April 18, Coach Cole took to the podium and recited portions of the Ohio Revised Code – claiming members of the school board have not followed protocol.
“You are a policy making group, and in my own particular situation, you didn’t follow your own policy you set for filing complaints,” Coach Cole said in her address to the board. “It makes me wonder what other policies you don’t follow to have your own will be done. It is abundantly clear you feel your role in this district is to be judge, jury and executioner.”
“I’m not here to ask for my job back, while it was in my opinion, a backdoor blindsided move, I have accepted your decision. I hope that this entire, ugly situation has brought to light the smoke and mirrors about what is really happening,” she said. “You didn’t get all the facts, you didn’t do an investigation and that the complaints have led to a complete halt to all volleyball programs from fifth through 12th grade players.”
Coach Cole noted that without the board approving a new coach at the most recent meeting, the current athletes will forego another month without any practice programs.
In a tearful, direct statement to Canton Local Superintendent Brett Yeagley (who recommended Coach Cole’s contract be renewed at the March Board of Education meeting), she said:
“Brett, I wish you luck in finding a coach. I do,” she said. “The coaching community is very small and tight-nit, and word travels fast. Good luck finding someone who is in the good graces of these people.”
Ed Simon, who is the father of Coach Cole, and Dave Andrews, a concerned community member, both questioned the board’s anti-harassment policies. They questioned why the proper steps weren’t followed when the alleged complaints were made against Coach Cole.
“It’s been somewhere between one month and six months that Scott Hamilton knew of these harassment claims concerning volleyball, and has done nothing about them,” Andrews said during his time of the public speak. “I am certain not reporting these have led to a delay in an investigation. And why has there been no investigation? There’s absolutely not reason.”
Simon also spoke in defense of his daughter.
“You waited five months. 153 days to bring forward a complaint you had to act upon to protect the future volleyball players for Canton South,” he said, with his statement directed towards Hamilton. “Erin was here with her girls in the last board meeting night. Why didn’t you do it down there to protect them that night?”
Simon asked why the accusations weren’t mentioned sooner.
“You stated that Erin bullied, harassed, and showed favoritism, but you never bothered to show up at a single ball game to witness it. They’re on video. Go check them out. You won’t find any,” he said.
Board president Hamilton said he received complaints and backs up his decision to vote against the renewal of Coach Cole’s contract.
“The complaints that I received came in the form of phone calls and a face-to-face meeting,” he said. “That’s the type of information that I received.”
Hamilton claims he did follow the reporting policies.
“I can tell you that the nature of the accusations that I received were favoritism, bullying and harassment,” he said. “I discussed the complaints with the family that reached out to me and they decided not to proceed with a formal investigation. What I heard during these discussions was enough for me to decide that I could not support Erin Cole as head volleyball coach.”
As far as the search for new head coach goes, Hamilton doesn’t believe they will have a problem hiring someone new to lead the program – which could come in the coming weeks.
“Our athletic director Matt Dennison is reaching out to potential candidates and setting up meetings to discuss our program,” he said. “We expect these meetings to take place, and we hopefully expect to hire our next coach within the next two or three weeks.”