Baldwin basketball players stand up for coach at school board meeting
More than a dozen Baldwin High School junior varsity basketball players stood together Wednesday night to support a coach they say has helped them more than just on the court.
Players, parents and fellow basketball coaches who have worked alongside junior varsity head coach Mike Voelker filled the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board chambers, questioning why his position was recently posted and asking for them to keep him in the job. The junior varsity team had a 10-4 record last season.
“He’s a true role model. He encouraged us to keep our grades up,” said Jeffrey Wallander, 17, a Baldwin junior who played under Voelker for three years. “He taught us as much about basketball as you possibly can. … He’s probably the biggest motivator in Baldwin.”
Superintendent Randal Lutz said he directed the posting of the junior varsity coaching job, which doubles as assistant varsity coach, because of a personnel matter, which he declined to disclose.
The position must be advertised for seven days, based on contractual obligations, Lutz said. He directed the posting as a “safeguard” in case a change is needed later, he said.
“Let’s get the timeline out of the way and we’ll see where it goes,” Lutz said. “I’m not going to comment on the rest of it because it’s a personnel matter.”
Board member Karen Brown said she was confused by the situation. Board members held an executive session following Wednesday’s meeting to discuss personnel matters.
Board President Larry Pantuso said board members do not control the hiring of assistant coaches. That is left up to the athletic director and head coach, he said.
Voelker has held the position for at least five years. The 2001 Baldwin High School graduate also serves as the defensive coordinator for the varsity football team.
He was the dean of students at Baldwin High School for three years until the position was eliminated. Voelker now teaches at J.E. Harrison Middle School.
Baldwin Borough resident Mike Travers called the issue “personal.”
“Somebody on this board obviously has something against him,” said Travers, who was escorted out of the meeting by a state constable for speaking out of turn.
Board member Tracy Macek questioned why the job was posted two weeks before the start of the season and said the real issue wasn’t being addressed.
“To me that’s not in the best interest of the kids whatsoever,” she said. “It interferes with the continuity of a team that has been practicing together. I want to know who made the decision and what kind of person would think that that was a good idea?”
Varsity basketball coach Joe Urmann, who lives outside of Baldwin-Whitehall, was not permitted to speak at the meeting because he doesn’t live in the district. A Baldwin-Whitehall resident read a letter from him asking for Voelker to keep the coaching job.
Urmann said after the meeting he wishes he had the opportunity to talk to the board.
Voelker declined to comment other to “thank the players, parents and Coach Urmann for showing up for what’s right.”