About a dozen residents voiced concerns about bullying, football team safety and alleged recent administrative decisions at the Kutztown Area School Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 21.
Kutztown High 2016 alumnus Nick Dengler, one of the 12 voicing concerns, presented a petition of 491 signatures calling for the suspension of high school Principal Barry Flicker. Dengler alleged Flicker “swept bullying under the rug.”
“Barry Flicker, in his position as principal of Kutztown Area High School, has been remiss in his duties in regards to bullying,” Dengler alleged.
He cited an unnamed student’s response to a question regarding Flicker’s influence on bullying in the school, which the student said was negative.
The petition, hosted online, allowed signers to write signed or unsigned comments, which Dengler offered to read.
“I think many board members have already seen many of those,” said Kutztown School Board President Carl Ziegler, adding that Dengler was welcome to provide a transcript. “Many of those are unsigned, and those that are certainly are beneficial and legitimate responses.”
Suspended Kutztown High Offensive Coordinator Johnathon Mosher spoke to the board and read a transcript from an alleged meeting with administration, himself, and also-suspended Head Coach Joe Moyer. In that meeting, he alleged, Flicker gave Moyer a directive to move Larry Chester back into the offensive line coach role. The two coaches, Mosher said, believed such a move would be unsafe and refused.
Ziegler raised concerns with the fact that the meeting was not public.
“The board would be more than happy to accept the transcript,” Ziegler said, stopping Mosher’s reading.
Mosher complied, then called for an emergency vote to suspend Flicker, based on the alleged “lack of discretion, and overall disrespect and aggressive behavior” displayed in the meeting, until pending investigations.
Nathan Lewis, a community member, characterized Mosher’s reading of the meeting as a policy violation, alleging Flicker’s actions were verbally abusive. He then recalled events surrounding and following the Kutztown Cougars’ most successful year since 2006 to 2016 – and why he believed the momentum did not continue.
“If you were there, you would know that words can’t accurately describe what was in the air that night,” Lewis said, regarding the atmosphere of the first home game of 2016. “Kutztown beats Shenandoah Valley 31-6, snapping the longest losing streak in Berks County. It was indescribably amazing.”
The team finished the season 4-6, winning two in a row after Shenandoah, and beating rival Fleetwood. Despite being the best record since 2008, when the Cougars went 5-6, Lewis said the whole coaching staff was fired.
According to data on MaxPreps.com, the Cougars haven’t won a game since. He said he believed coaching staff and athletic director changes have stifled growth in the football program, due, in part, to Flicker’s alleged decisions, though Ziegler stressed that all employment decisions are ultimately the school board’s decision.
“Against Hamburg, we ran a whole defensive series with only 10 players,” said Lewis. “There is no need for this.”
Lewis said he only sees two options: Flicker resigns or the football program ends.
“I think Mr. Flicker needs to focus his attention on education, and keep his nose out of the athletic department, but I can’t trust that that’s going to happen,” said Lewis. “As soon as safety came up out of a coach’s mouth, that should’ve been it.”
2019 Kutztown High alumna Ramsi Ross told the board about her experience working with Flicker to handle bullying.
“Instead of blaming the bullies, I was supposed to change,” Ross, who served as class president, said. “We tried a couple different approaches. Nothing was ever handled, nothing was done.”
Ross said bullying had spread from school to Snapchat and other online outlets, and she said, only after police became involved was it handled.
“Action did take place, the kids were suspended, and things stopped, and I had a great rest of my senior year, but it took me and my mom going to the police and addressing them of what was going on in this high school until something was done,” Ross said.
Ziegler thanked those who addressed the board and expressed appreciation.
“I’m certain that all of your comments are heartfelt, and I’m sure the board will address the issues,” Ziegler said.
No formal action was taken.
Flicker did not comment during the meeting.
In other news, the board hired Dr. Steven A. Leever as Assistant Superintendent at a salary of $130,000.
“Congratulations Dr. Leever, we look forward to your contributions to the school district and our students,” said Ziegler.
The board approved a lease addendum with Early Learning Community, Inc., which leases space in the district’s administration building in Maxatawny, keeping their rent at $500 per month. According to Superintendent Christian Temchatin, the lease includes a 3 percent increase each year, which the addendum nullifies for this year.
Also approved was a pair of abroad field trips in the summer of 2021, to Italy and Greece, and South Africa, respectively.
“I think we’re very fortunate as a school district to have teachers who are willing to put in so much of their extra time to make these trips available to our students,” said board member Eric Johnson. “As somebody who leads a studies abroad trip for university students, a week or two abroad is more valuable than an entire semester at a university.”
“I wish every high school student had the opportunity to go abroad,” Johnson added.
The next School Board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Kutztown Elementary.