Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Up and down the court. He shoots. Scores, Blocked. Rebounds. Fast break, Too many dribbles. Benched.

Shar out again as W. Mifflin girls basketball coach

Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Phil Shar, the West Mifflin Area High School girls basketball coach who was fired a year ago after publicly criticizing the district's former superintendent, then rehired two weeks ago, is now off the job again.

Mr. Shar was removed from his coaching position yesterday by Superintendent Janet Sardon, whose action was based on a grievance filed by the teachers union and on two legal opinions she received on the issue -- one from district solicitor Jack Cambest and the other from Stuart Knade, chief counsel for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The West Mifflin School Board voted to give Mr. Shar his head coaching job back at its May 20 meeting, but even before the vote was taken there were questions about whether it was legal for Mr. Shar, who is now a school board member, to serve as coach.

Mr. Shar had planned to serve as a volunteer and take no stipend.

After he was removed from his coaching position in June 2009 after several nasty public disagreements with former superintendent Patrick Risha, Mr. Shar ran a write-in campaign for the school board and won, beating out incumbent Diana Olasz. He took office in December and several weeks later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district, alleging that his right to free speech was violated. The suit demanded damages and a return to his coaching position,

Last month, the suit was settled for $30,000. Shortly after the settlement, the board majority voted to return him to the coaching position. It's unclear if that vote was also part of the settlement, as there was a confidentiality clause in the settlement that prevents either side from discussing it.

However, at the time Mr. Shar filed his suit, Mr. Knade of the school boards association said it violated the school code for Mr. Shar to serve as both school director and coach.

Mr. Knade said Section 324 of the state school code stipulates that "you cannot be employed by the school district in any capacity until after the expiration of your term in office regardless of if you resign."

Mr. Knade said that meant that Mr. Shar could not return to coaching, even on a volunteer basis, until the expiration of his four -- year term, even if he resigned.

Dr. Sardon said Mr. Cambest held the same legal opinion and union president Tom Ruffing said the union's attorney Stephen Jordan gave the union the same opinion.

Dr. Sardon said the district will not hold open gyms for the girls team until a new coach is named. However, she said Mr. Shar could continue to coach the girls summer league program because it is not a district-sponsored program.

After his reinstatement on May 20, Mr. Shar said he had received legal opinions saying he could coach provided he received no pay. Mr. Shar could not be reached for comment today.

Mary Niederberger:; 412-851-1512.

Read more:
I want our kids to be involved within gangs that we control -- like basketball teams, orchestras, and other school-sponsored activities.

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