The departure of a 20-year veteran on the Sto-Rox school board, Ed Maritz Jr., has residents of both McKees Rocks and Stowe speculating his future plans.
Those who want to reinstate the recently canceled spring sports programs are looking at his departure as helpful in their bid.
Mr. Maritz denies interest in pursuing political office of any level, career-track changes or plans to become the district's next superintendent, noting that he has said he is not qualified to work as a superintendent in Pennsylvania.
He would consider pursuing adjunct teaching positions in higher education, he said.
Mr. Maritz is a business education teacher in the Pine-Richland School District. He has a doctorate in educational administration from Duquesne University and is looking to this option as a way to fill his newly found "free time" in the evenings.
His July 18 resignation from his Region 1 seat will free at least three evenings a month.
"It is my hope that with my departure, the salient and pressing issues of Sto-Rox can take center stage as opposed to the current circus atmosphere that was occurring just prior to my leaving," Mr. Maritz wrote in an email July 22.
Lack of reaction to his presentation outlining the district's financial situation as "nearing extinction" during last month's budget vote heavily influenced his move to resign, he said.
"It's quite the shock. He has been a huge advocate for this district for the past 20 years and he will be missed," acting superintendent Frank Dalmas said.
Before the June 27 budget adoption, which eliminated 11 positions, Mr. Maritz had urged the district and residents to join him at a Harrisburg rally to petition the state government for changes in how education is funded.
Just two Sto-Rox representatives -- Mr. Maritz and fellow board member James Grimm -- made the trip, which included free bus transportation.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Maritz noted part of his reason for leaving the unpaid position was the misinformed and insulting comments via social media aimed at him over the board's decision to eliminate the baseball and softball teams. The termination of the teams will save the district about $24,000.
About $190,000 of the school district's $23.14 million budget for 2013-14 is earmarked for athletics. Working with administrators, the directors carved about $893,343 from the budget with cuts, furloughs and attrition. Sto-Rox will use $1.45 million from the district's unreserved, undesignated fund balance to balance the plan. Approximately $1.3 million will be left in the fund balance as of June 30, 2014.
"It's become loudly evident that sacred cows exist inside Sto-Rox and learning and education are not among these," Mr. Maritz wrote in his resignation letter. "Whether it is a matter of emphasis or a matter of expenditure, sports have far more dedicated supporters than science, language arts, mathematics, paraprofessionals, or even librarians. Academic underperformance by far too many of our students has been excused, ignored and set aside in order to facilitate and prioritize their athletic participation."
Supporters for reinstating the canceled spring sports met July 1 at Third Street Park in McKees Rocks to discuss fundraising, across-the-board cuts to all sports programming and other ideas that could persuade school directors to save the teams.
Advocate and one-time assistant softball coach Ken Hohman was among those in attendance. He said members of the Lady Vikings softball team traditionally receive a high number of scholarships and never have problems with academic eligibility, which is why he does not understand the need to cut such a successful program when other options could be considered.
"It's like having the NFL cut the Steelers and the 49ers," said Mr. Hohman of McKees Rocks.
Mr. Hohman said that four of the five seniors who played softball for coach Bill Palermo this year will play softball at the college level.
He worries about the younger girls left behind without a team to propel them to that level, noting that at least one junior team member's family is moving out of the district so that she can continue to play.
Mr. Palermo retired from the Sto-Rox athletic director position this year and has been the only head softball coach during the program's 35-year history. The team had won 10 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League championship titles during that time.
A request to reinstate the teams by outlining possible solutions to save the softball and baseball teams, including cutting one assistant coach per sport or reducing all team budgets, has not been presented to the board for consideration.
"I'd like to see some of these individuals that want to be the armchair quarterback. I'd like to see them step up, not just for athletics, but for the whole district," board President Elizabeth Smith said after the July 18 meeting.
Directors voted to advertise for candidates to serve the remainder of Mr. Maritz's term, which will expire Nov. 30.
Mr. Maritz said he will notify the Board of Elections to remove his name from the upcoming November ballot allowing voters to decide on his replacement. He had won a four-year McKees Rocks term, which would begin Dec. 1.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: email@example.com.