Written by Eric Holden Friday, 03 February 2012 00:00
The phrase “every dog has his day” refers to the idea that everyone will have good things happen to them at some point, regardless of stature or previous luck. But on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at the regular public meeting of the Island Trees Board of Education, it was a “Dawg” who had his day. Hundreds of Island Trees residents and student-athletes from the district packed into the Stephen E. Karopczyc school gym in a show of support for former Lady Dawgs soccer and basketball coach Andy Schneider, a Physical Education teacher in the district who was recently relieved of his coaching duties for posting what was deemed by the school board as inappropriate comments, posted by him onto a social networking site last month.
Schneider allegedly made an ill-advised public comment on Facebook in December, where he essentially made a case for a player from the Island Trees Lady Dawgs girls’ soccer team to be named to Newsday’s All-Long Island Girls’ Soccer Team instead of an athlete from a neighboring district. He claimed that the player from the Lady Dawgs had better stats than the player from the other district, and that she was overlooked for mention on the list because his squad plays in a lower conference.
Teammates and parents of the girl from the neighboring district saw Schneider’s comments, and felt that they were severe enough to report to Island Trees administrators. Within two days, the decision was made by the Island Trees School Board to relieve Schneider of his coaching duties.
Approximately 50 attendees dressed in light blue, Schneider’s favorite color due to his fandom of the Carolina Tar Heels. Several of his former players stepped up to the podium to address board members about the incident.
“The board has made a huge mistake by firing Mr. Schneider,” Island Trees senior Maggie Milonakis said. “He is one of the most caring people in the world and he would do anything to protect his players, which is exactly what he did. How can you punish someone so severely when all he did was simply protect and stick up for one of his players? I can’t stress enough how much he means to all of us. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be playing college basketball at a Division II school next year.”
After listening to several tearful testimonies by current Island Trees athletes, Island Trees Board President Patricia Mahon said “I know how difficult it is, particularly for players and students to come up [to the podium], and how upsetting it is, but when you ask for a reason [for Schneider‘s dismissal], we are prevented by confidentiality to give any reason. It is now pending litigation, so I’m sorry. That is the only response I can give to you and I know for some of you, that may not be enough, but that’s all the district is allowed to say at this time.”
Even after Mahon’s response, several other parents spoke out against Schneider’s firing. “I asked a few times that the board come down and meet with us to explain your decision, which you decided not to do,” said Island Trees parent Bob Vilbig. “In years past, the softball team had this issue and the board did meet with the softball team and did address their issue, whether it’s a statement or closure. This happened two weeks before Christmas and it came down on the girls hard. It’s about six weeks later since this happened and they’re still crying and upset about it. This pain and hurt is not going to go away. This is going to cost the school district money in the long run. Whether he wins or loses, we’re now looking at litigation. It’s going to cost more teachers’ jobs and going to cost the school district some money. We’re in a situation where we can fix this problem. The punishment did not fit the crime. Fix it and reinstate him immediately.”
The school board and administration are restricted from speaking about personnel matters in public. The district will not respond publicly, pending litigation.
In other matters, the board approved several field trips, including a high school social studies’ trip to Metropolis Studios in New York City on Feb. 14, a trip by 200 of the district’s 9th graders and 20 chaperones to AMC Nassau Metroplex in March to see the movie, The Hunger Games, and a journey by the high school music department to the New York Philharmonic in early March.
The board also approved the use of K9 Noses Inc., for the purpose of narcotics assemblies and searches at Island Trees High School and Island Trees Memorial Middle School, at a cost of $1,000 per school for assemblies, $500 per school for narcotic searches, and $750 per school for unscheduled narcotic searches.
The next regular public Island Trees Board of Education meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 15 in the Stephen E. Karopczyc School General Purpose Room at 74 Farmedge Road in Levittown. The public meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.
All past and future meeting dates can be found on the district’s website, including meeting agendas and copies of each meeting’s minutes. For additional information contact the Island Trees Public Schools Administrative Office at (516) 520-2100.