MAYFIELD, LACKAWANNA COUNTY- Lakeland School District administrators called halt to a controversial meeting full of shouting matches and heated confrontations. An estimated 300 people jammed the cafeteria of Mayfield Elementary School Wednesday night for a board meeting. It's the first meeting following a unexplained decision by the school board to force the boys and girls basketball teams to forfeit post-season play. Team members said they were told by administrators their season wasn't successful enough to warrant a playoff action. Basketball players said the action by the school board made them embarrassed to be part of the Lakeland School District.
That alleged reason spawned an hours-worth of school board and administration blasting by the public. Amid calls for resignation, the school board said a communication break down in the chain of command led to the order to forfeit the playoff game. School Board President Jack Brennan said there was never a decision made by the board. Instead, he claims an opinion was offered on the matter of post season play. Brennan refused to elaborate on specifics, citing a personnel clause that prohibits board members from commenting on confidential employment situations. He defended his silence saying it wasn't just a board attempt to "hide from the issue." Dozens of parents and students chose to disagree. Seemingly unfazed by the searing criticism, Brennan said he plans to run again for the school board.
Earlier Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association (PIAA) censured the district for failing to give proper notice of forfeiture of both games on February 19. The hearing, which Superintendent Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones offered testimony, was ordered closed for "personnel reasons." WBRE Eyewitness News objected the closing of what was to be a public hearing.
The district was placed on probation through the end of the 2009-2010 school year. The district will also have to issue apology letters to the opposing teams and reimburse expenses for game officials. Billings-Jones, following the hearing, denied the board never made a decision on the matter. Several calls to Billings-Jones since February have never been returned.