Livingston situation shows disconnect
Nothing about longtime Central York football and boys' volleyball coach Brad Livingston's coaching future has been handled properly, and the mess doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
- Livingston has a 211-153-4 record in 34 seasons as the Central York football coach.
- He most recently led the boys' volleyball team to a PIAA Class AAA state title in 2014.
In a perfect world, no coaching tenure, at any level, would have an ugly ending.
The smoothest transition is always done when there's a respectful parting of ways between the two sides.
In the case of Central York's Brad Livingston, the drama surrounding his rumored departure from the football and boys' volleyball teams is not a pretty situation. Livingston spent the last 34 years as the Panthers' head football coach and an even longer time as a coach with the boys' volleyball program, both as an assistant and as the head coach. There's no doubt that during his time with the school and its athletic department, he's made a positive impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
That much was obvious when about 50-60 former and current parents, students, school administrators and athletic coaches turned out at last Monday's school board meeting to voice their displeasure over the rumors that the school was trying to force out Livingston.
Here's the questionable part regarding all of those rumors that have rapidly become very public — despite a large percentage of the general public seeming to know that Livingston's time as a head coach could be coming to an end, the board members didn't seem to know a thing about it.
At least that's the perception the school board gave during the meeting. Just before to the first "citizen comment" section of the night, school board president Eric Wolfgang made it known that the board would not respond to any questions regarding Livingston's future because the board had only recently been made aware of the rumors.
"The board was just briefed tonight (on the situation)," Wolfgang said at last Monday's meeting.
He read a prepared statement, saying that: "The board has not made any decision that would affect the football program. Additionally no decision will be made at tonight’s meeting, nor is there any current plan to take action at any public meeting in the near future."
The prepared statement enabled the board members to avoid responding to any questions that night. Still, they had to listen to a handful of members from the audience who stuck out the three-plus-hour meeting to passionately plead their cases as to why Livingston should stay. By the end of the night, a meeting that was scheduled to last only two hours, according to the agenda, went on for more than 3 1/2 hours. The only board member to speak up was Michael Snyder, who closed the meeting by saying: "The students should not have to pay for this."
The entire meeting raises some concerns about the conversations that are going on behind closed doors with the school board and administration. How can rumors circulate about a man's job future for the better part of a month, become well-known by the public, yet nobody on the board supposedly knew about it until hours before the meeting? Somewhere along the line, there appears to be a disconnect.
In the court of public opinion, district superintendent Michael Snell is getting much of the blame in this soap opera, whether he deserves it or not. Many people who have spoken out on social media, believe Livingston's fate is already sealed because of a back-room ultimatum that Livingston was presented with — he could either step down as football coach and focus solely on his boys' volleyball duties, or be fired altogether from both jobs. When reached for comment, Livingston replied in an email that those rumors were "not technically correct," and that he wouldn't provide any further comment. Snell would not provide further comment following the meeting, so those perceived rumors are just hearsay at the moment.
Which brings up a second concern. Snyder's end-of-meeting comments, that seemed to fall in line with the community's support for Livingston, only seem to enhance the disconnect between Snell and the rest of the board. Typically, with most matters taken to a school board, the members are in general agreement on things, one way or the other.
What we do know is that Snyder appears to feel sympathetic to Livingston's plight, as does much of the public. Since he was the only committee member to speak up at the end of the meeting regarding Livingston, however, it's hard to tell where the rest of the board stands on the issue.
This situation doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, either. After all, the prepared statement read at last Monday's board meeting indicated that no decision will be made in the near future. This topic, however, looks like it may be brought back up again by the public at the next board meeting on Monday night.
Until the board makes an official decision on Livingston, only one thing remains certain: the Central York school board and administration has made a bit of a mess of the situation. They've left a man's future — one who's committed more than five decades of his life to the school — dangling publicly in the wind.
If Livingston's time as coach does end, it's hardly the way either side would've wanted this breakup to go.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com