When the York High School freshmen boys basketball team held its opening game Friday, coaching the game was Josh Herbein, son of School Committee member David Herbein.
The School Committee Wednesday night voted to employ him under an exception to the committee’s nepotism policy that allows for such hires under emergency situations.
The junior varsity and freshmen coaches, along with several volunteer assistant coaches, all resigned at the start of practice in apparent protest of the firing of head coach Randy Small. Small was dismissed by interim Superintendent Mark McQuillan at the direction of Athletic Director Andy Wood in early November after 10 years coaching basketball and 21 coaching football for York. Both men have said they are precluded from commenting about the circumstances.
According to a timeline laid out by committee Chairwoman Julie Eneman, Wood advertised on a school employment website for both the junior varsity and freshmen positions in the wake of the resignations of Matt Brodsky and Steve Estes, respectively. Brodsky resigned Nov. 20, and Estes Nov. 23.
Dave Herbein said he was unaware his son was interested in becoming freshmen coach and he did not know Wood had advertised for the position. “This was all kind of a surprise to me,” he said. Wood said Josh Herbein and the new JV coach Kevin Giannino were the only two applicants.
Dave Herbein said the minute he found out of his son’s interest, he alerted Wood and Eneman to the fact his son was an applicant and handed them copies of the committee’s nepotism policy, “because this was kind of an unusual situation.”
Eneman said she was impressed by the way Dave Herbein handled the situation.
“He said, ’That’s my kid and here’s the policy. He is a real stand-up guy.”
The nepotism policy states no immediate family member of a School Committee member can be employed by the school department. However, this is a written exception to that rule. Under “extraordinary circumstances,” the committee can approve a family member as long as he/she is qualified, the hiring is in the best interest of the school system and students, and the person isn’t a spouse of a committee member.
When asked what Josh Herbein’s qualifications are, Wood said candidates’ backgrounds are considered protected information. But he said he could confirm both Herbein and Giannino have “the educational and professional experience that makes them very qualified for high school coaching roles. This included, but is not limited to, their collegiate studies, time working directly with youth, knowledge of the sport and recommendations from their references.”
Josh Herbein and Giannino began immediately working with the team in preseason practice that began starting the week of Nov. 20, but as volunteers. “We were very clear with both candidates that their work with the program prior to a potential approval was strictly on a voluntary basis.”
Wood said he has a real need for volunteer coaches, who are required to have the same credentials as a paid coach.
Meanwhile, School Committee members said they felt they faced an “extraordinary circumstance.” Most pressing, the practice season was underway and it was in the best interest of students for that position to be filled. “Is it fair to kids to not be filling a coaching position because of a political landscape not of their doing?” Eneman said. “What are we here for? We’re here to do right by kids.”
“I would suggest this meets the standard of extraordinary circumstances,” said Brenda Alexander. “Without filling that appointment, we would not be running one of the two remaining teams” in addition to the varsity team.
But Kent Kilgore of the group Coaches and Kids Matter had a different take. The group formed in the wake of Small’s resignation and has attended several committee meetings sporting buttons and wearing T-shirts with their logo. He said school officials “created their own emergency” by dismissing Small to begin with. “So because they screwed up, they’re voting on an exception to the rule.”
He said Josh Herbein is a “good kid” but asked the rhetorical question, given the dearth of candidates, “Who would want to coach down here anyway?”
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