Representatives from the Easton branch of the NAACP called for the firing Tuesday night of Easton Area High School principal Kyle Geiger and Athletic Director Jim Pokrivsak for their roles in last week’s dismissal of varsity wrestling coach JaMarr Billman.
Speaking at a school board meeting, Marvin Boyer, political action chairman for Easton’s NAACP, provided details of an incident March 10 involving Billman being attacked verbally and physically by family members of a wrestler who failed to make weight on the last day of the PIAA Wrestling Championships.
Boyer described the events of the last 10 days after talking with Billman, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting.
According to Boyer, Billman shouldered the blame when the wrestler, sophomore Jonathan Miers, failed to make weight.
“They became enraged,” Boyer said of Miers’ family members. “They called him names, swore at him.
“The wrestler’s grandfather went so far as to choke Mr. Billman, used racial epitaphs, called him [the N-word], threatened his life.
“Throughout the verbal and physical assault, Billman remained calm and reported the incident to his direct supervisor, the athletic director, shortly after the incident.”
Boyer claims that Pokrivsak and Geiger did not provide school district Superintendent John Reinhart and Chief Operating Officer Michael Simonetta with full details of the event.
Billman provided details to Reinhart and Simonetta last Friday, two days after the wrestling coach was informed that his contract was not being renewed.
Reinstatement not enough for NAACP: A few hours later, Reinhart reinstated Billman.
Boyer believes that’s not enough.
“Billman nor his assistants and all the witnesses [to the March 10 events] were never interviewed by the athletic director or principal before a decision was made,” Boyer said.
“It can be inferred that [Geiger’s and Pokrivsak’s] actions were deceptive, which lends credence to Billman’s claim that he has a hostile work environment and is being discriminated against.
“The NAACP believes Billman’s job will remain in jeopardy as long as he reports to the current athletic director and principal.”
Boyer added that he felt compelled to tell the complete story so that the public understands the rush to judgment of Geiger and Pokrivsak.
“I hope that the [Easton school board] terminates the athletic director and principal considering their egregious actions,” he said.
“I also hope they reprimand assistant superintendent [Alyssa Emili] for her inaction in representing Reinhart.”
Wrestlers support coach: Senior wrestler Jonathan Pineda, who was among those who witnessed the events of March 10 at Hershey’s Giant Center, also read a statement after Boyer.
Pineda said he felt compelled to speak up in support of Billman because of all he had done for him personally and the program in his two seasons in charge of his alma mater.
Wrestling teammates Connor and Colby Duffy, Jake Koerwitz, Brian Spaziani and Jacob Frank joined Pineda as he spoke during the public portion of the school board meeting.
Others spoke during that time in support of Billman and encouraged the board to seek justice in light of the details of the alleged events.
Superintendent keeps coach: Reinhart said he decided to keep Billman on after he completed his own investigation — which involved reading reports, interviews with key people involved in supervising the program and Billman — on Friday. He declined to comment further, saying it was a personnel matter.
He also said he had no response to the NAACP’s suggestion, but noted he is a member of the branch.
“I understand their concerns,” he said. “I understand parent concerns on all ends of the spectrum.”
School board President George Chando said the board valued everyone’s comments. He said the board will ensure the incident is investigated and reviewed.
“We will move forward with any recommendations and corrective actions,” he said.
Billman, a 1997 Easton graduate, is 24-13 in his first two years in place of legendary coach Steve Powell. Billman was a two-time state champion under Powell.