On Monday, June 5, the school board hired Doug Dahms as the Wilson School District's interim head football coach.

Dahms will serve the position during the ongoing investigation of Jim Cantafio who was suspended with pay on May 23.

"It is a very emotional time. We have been coaching together close to eight years," Dahms stated in an earlier interview. "I had to think about what is best for the students."

An assistant coach for Jim Cantafio, he is also a science teacher at the high school. The decision came about two weeks following Cantafio's suspension from teaching physical education. He was also escorted off the school grounds and barred from returning pending a district investigation.

"Coach Dahms and I are very close, and I support him in anything he does. I'll always be here to help him," Cantafio, 52, commented in an earlier interview.

Superintendent Dr. Lawrence J. Mussoline noted that the suspension concerns "employee/employer issues." He would not disclose any further details.

At the school board meeting, board president Jason Hopp said, "The board is not privy to all of the details the administration is investigating. Personnel matters are private matters. Cantafio is subject to a public hearing with his lawyer, where the evidence would be presented."

Currently there has been no hearing with Cantafio and the school board. The only action has been Dahms' approval as interim coach, which becomes effective Tuesday, June 6. At this time, the school administration is gathering evidence, and a hearing will be scheduled following the investigation.

According to a Wilson source, the probe centered around Cantafio's connection with financial matters regarding his operation of summer football camps.

Cantafio would not comment on the reasons for his suspension, but his lawyer Kevin Moore stated that the allegations of the financial improprieties are "categorically false" adding that, "We hope to have Mr. Cantafio fully reinstated to his teaching position and coaching position."

Moore hopes a decision to immediately reinstate Cantafio will be initiated following a grievance that was filed by the Wilson Education Association.

"It is an opportunity for an investigation about the suspension and to make sure that terms of the contract were followed," Wilson Education Association (WEA) Grievance Committee Chairperson Janice Eisenbise said.

She explained the grievance procedure, noting there are four potential steps involved. The WEA has filed at the first level and is currently waiting for a response from school district officials.

The grievance was sent to the high school building principal E. Wayne Foley on Friday, June 2. From the time Foley receives the document, he has about 10 days to contact the WEA and set up a hearing between parties from the school district and the WEA Grievance Committee with Cantafio.

If the school district does not approve of Cantafio's reinstatement, the WEA will again file a grievance at the next level - the assistant superintendent.

The procedure could continue to the fourth step - the school board.

In addition to the grievance, Moore commented, he and his client are also considering further litigation against the school district, including breach of contract and slander.

Under Cantafio's tutelage, Wilson's football team has made four appearances in the District 3 Class AAAA football playoffs, with a championship in 1999. He is considered one of the best coaches in Berks County.

* Courtney McEachern and Denise Larive also contributed to this article.

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