Tube City Almanac

January 24, 2013

School Board Rehires Smith

Category: News || By

The rumors circulating around McKeesport for the past several weeks are now confirmed: George Smith will resume his former position as McKeesport Area High School's head football coach, continuing the winning career he built coaching the Tigers for almost three decades.

The school board officially rehired Smith as head football coach for the 2013-14 school year by a unanimous vote on Wednesday night. School Director Mark Holtzman was absent.

The 63-year old MAHS alumnus hopes to add more Tiger victories to his successful record, which includes 197 wins. Under his direction, the McKeesport Tigers won two district 7 WPIAL championships and two Pennsylvania state championships in 1994 and 2005. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.

After 28 years coaching the Tigers, Smith resigned and was replaced by former Yough coach Jim Ward, who resigned after only three seasons.

Smith left after the 2009 season, citing frustrations with the district's football program as the impetus for his resignation.

He was rehired at a salary of $7,493.97, according to the personnel sheet.

School Board President Patricia Maksin commented on the in-depth, time-consuming process that administrators went through in order to fill the coaching spot.

"The students, the families and community members of the McKeesport Area School District should know that this board did not take our job lightly and worked to the best of our ability to make sure our student athletes will be guided forward with skill and integrity," Maksin said.

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I wish I had realized that this topic was going to be discussed at last night’s school board meeting.

And not because I am interested in who is football coach.

You see, my children were part of a dozen or so kids that are in orchestra and were asked to play for the board members that night. I had thought this was an informal sort of thing, for the board’s entertainment.

However, I realized afterwards, when picking up my kids, that the board is considering REDUCING or ELIMINATING the music programs in the district, and that these kids playing for the board was put together by the wonderful music teachers in our schools to try and show the board the great results they are getting and what we will be missing should they cut the programs. In effect, my kids were playing to try and convince the board members to let them KEEP playing.

Music and the arts has been proven over and over again to enrich kids lives and keep them engaged and off the streets. It has also been suggested that kids who are involved in music do better with math because of the direct relationship between music and math.

In orchestra, band and chorus, ALL kids participate, and the whole group acts as a team putting on their shows.

In football, the best players get to play and the not so great players are benched or play in a limited capacity. Even though coaches TRY to play all the kids, let’s face it – when the marching orders are to win games and gain the school a championship, that is not always done.

I am appalled that the board, on the same night, was considering CUTTING music from our schools while at the same time worrying about spending money on athletics.

Don’t get me wrong- Being involved in football and other sports at school certainly helps our children athletically and teaches some level of “teamwork”. It also keeps kids occupied.

But let’s face it – maybe 1 or 2 out of a thousand kids involved in high school football actually go on to make that a career. Kids who are involved in music take with them skills that last a lifetime. They take away much more than just learning an instrument or singing. And honestly, isn’t that what school is supposed to be about?

So much emphasis is put onto how many “winning seasons” can this or that coach get our school, especially here in McKeesport where we have been known for a great Football program over the years.

While having bragging rights to the best High School football team around is nice, I am more concerned about my kids being well-rounded students who have skills they can use later and having some culture and exposure to the arts as well. My kids are involved in sports AND music. They shouldn’t be given the message that one is more important than the other simply because we get some public recognition from winning games.

As a tax payer I feel that BOTH programs have merit and BOTH need to be funded equally. But that is not the case. The auditorium, where the music students perform, is using the minimal amount possible of outdated AV equipment while the football team gets one of the best best stadium facilities around. How is that fair?

BOTH football/sports and orchestra/band/chorus are considered “extracurricular activities” and NEITHER should get more funding than the other.

If funding for the music programs is cut, so should funding be cut for the athletic programs. Equal amounts of money for all so they can all be developed for the kids who want to participate in them.
Shadango - January 24, 2013

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