Coatesville board accepts resignations of superintendent, athletic director

COATESVILLE, Pa. - September 24, 2013

The crowd was vocal, the language on the signs was strong and Coatesville residents took up almost every inch of the school auditorium.

"I respectfully request the resignation of the entire school board," one parent said to a chorus of cheers.

The school board and its legal counsel are under fire and the boos and cheers for their resignations proved that in the wake of a racist texting scandal involving Como and Jim Donato.

"You've known about the texting for a month and never once did you say a word," resident Thomas Audette said.

"You do a nice song and a dance for us, but it still doesn't ease the pain of the people; we are looking for some closure," resident James Jackson said.

Board president Neil Campbell spent almost 30 minutes giving a timeline of events of when the board knew what last month and acted.

He also confirmed what's been rumored in this community for weeks. There is an ongoing criminal investigation involving kickbacks for high school football camps unrelated to the district.

"And indeed we believe we were acting responsibly by maintaining our silence during the course of this investigation," Campbell said.

People angry Superintendent Como was allowed to retire instead of fired were told this board had no control over the pension he's able to collect. And it can only be taken away if convicted of a crime.

Campbell said the board wanted the top administrators out immediately, but also wanted to avoid possible lawsuits for not following the termination process properly.

"The damage done to our community by these men, cannot be calculated or measured. Like all of you, we are thoroughly disgusted and shocked by what they did," Campbell said.

Just before 11:00 p.m., the board voted 6 to 1 to accept the two men's resignations.

The board president said the superintendent would not get "one red cent of his remaining contract" and "there would be no buyouts."

For days, a transcript of an alleged text exchange between Como and Donato has been igniting strong emotions among people in the diverse community.

The messages sent in June were littered with the N-word and derogatory statements about black students and staff, Hispanics and Jewish people.

"They're given the position of power which is to look over children and watch over children's educations and not do the things they did on the texts," parent Julia Watkins said.

The district says the board and its legal counsel acted swiftly last month when an IT employee notified them of the texts on the district-issued phones.

Both men quit after the termination process started.

Como who was well-liked spent 8 years as the head of the district and 42 years in public education.

The acting superintendent Angelo Romaniello wrote a letter to parents yesterday saying "we can all be a part of the solution" and that starts with open minds, respect and acknowledging racism hurts everyone.

"There's really no room for error for this to happen again," Watkins said.

The district says the board, faculty and staff will go through racial sensitivity training and counseling is being offered to students to start the healing process.

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