As Thursday night’s Montour school district board meeting began, a member of the audience murmured, “This is going to be interesting.”
The board, confronted with angry residents, reinstated football coach Lou Cerro as the school’s athletic director and Tony Rippole as equipment manager, after nearly four months of suspension.
District officials had placed Cerro and Rippole on administrative leave in August, though they allowed Cerro to continue coaching the football team. Cerro led the Spartans to the WPIAL Class AAA championship in 2012 and a runner-up finish in ‘07. He also won two WPIAL Class AA titles at Seton-La Salle.
District officials have said an investigation was ongoing, but offered no details.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss it.” said district solicitor Don Palmer. “It’s a matter of the law.”
Thursday night, approximately 100 people, including the entire football team, angry parents and students turned out seeking reinstatement of the two.
People held large white signs emblazoned with the Spartan logo and the words “In Lou We Trust.”
The crowd erupted when the board skipped the fifth item on its agenda, a request from Tommy Sylvester of Kennedy Township to address the board regarding Cerro.
“Did we skip Roman numeral five for a reason?” one man shouted.
“That person cancelled,” replied board member Scott Suess.
Robinson policemen stood in the back of the auditorium.
The football team spoke movingly on behalf of their coach and equipment director.
People demanded answers.
Board Member Dean Caliguire yelled over the din, “We’re going to reinstate them tonight! Where I’m from, you’re innocent until proven guilty!”
“Fix it or you will be gone,” a man responded. “We’re tired of the way you’re treating us, and we’re taking it back!”
Caliguire moved to reinstate Cerro and Rippole, and the board approved the measure 6-3, amidst cheers and applause.
Rebecca Ferraro is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media