PTISD to hold 'special meeting' October 18, Athletic Director expected to resign

The School Yard

POSTED: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 6:38pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 7:30am

After taking no action at Monday night's regularly scheduled school board meeting, a "special meeting" of the Board of Trustees at Pine Tree Independent School District will be held October 18, 2013, beginning at 3:00 p.m., in the PTISD Central Office Boardroom, where Athletic Director and head football coach, Derek Fitzhenry, is expected to resign.

Board members and Superintendent Dr. T.J. Farler are expected to discuss, with Fitzhenry, what exact formal action will be taken.

According to the board agenda, the board will retreat into a closed session for consultation with an attorney regarding a settlement agreement and the resignation of the Athletic Director and head football coach.

An open session will begin immediately after the closed session ends where there will be a discussion and possible action on the resignation and settlement agreement of Fitzhenry.

You can see a copy of the agenda posted by PTISD below:

Photo from Pine Tree ISD website.

After nearly six hours Monday night, the Pine Tree ISD Board of Trustees decided to take no action concerning recent controversy surrounding Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Derek Fitzhenry.

Around 10:40 p.m., PTISD Board President Charley Peck announced to a crowded room they will meet again in one week, October 21, at 500 p.m., to discuss personnel matters. The decision was made after a two-hour executive session meeting behind closed doors.

During the open session, board members listened to public comments from the community, but did not take any questions from concerned citizens. At one point, a taxpayer spoke out against Fitzhenry calling recent events a 'mockery' of Pine Tree High School athletics.

Rob Wallin, a Pine Tree parent and Pirate alum, questioned the ethics of Coach Fitzhenry as well as members of the board:

Photo of Rob Wallin from KETK.

"How many chances does an individual get to intimidate and to manipulate the very people he was hired to develop into a more confident, honorable and productive citizens? As the Pine Tree school board, are we alright with lowering the bar with the hope that someday we may have a really, really great football team?"

Todd Guest, another concerned parent and 8th grade science teach at PT, expressed his displeasure of the possibility that recent incidents are affecting the district financially:

Photo of Todd Guest from KETK.

"Our property values are decreasing with every day that this gets drug out in the news and in the media, and with all the questions that people have about things, who would want to move to our district? Ask yourself, would you move to the Pine Tree Independent School District if you were new to town?"

Comments were met with a loud applause from the audience.

Neither Fitzhenry nor PTISD athletes were in attendance at the meeting.

So far this season, the coach has been accused of pushing a student at a game, for which Fitzhenry was put on administrative leave shortly before being reinstated. Three football players, were also arrested in September after school officials caught them with marijuana on school grounds back in June. The three athletes had played in every Pirate football game up until that point. Fitzhenry also admitted to altering the online version of the Pine Tree Athletic Department's handbook which allowed a player charged with sexually assaulting a minor to play in the Pirates' game gainst Nacogdoches. It was later learned that Superintendent T.J. Farler was unaware of the changes.

Following the publication of the accusation, the athletic director denied wrongdoing and blamed the changes on a "clerical error," which KETK quickly disproved.

The school handbook has since reverted back to its original form.

Prior to Monday night's meeting, current Texas A&M student and former Pine Tree football captain, Tanner Carroll, spoke exclusively with KETK and gave his thoughts on the situation at his alma mater:

"Parents have the right to be concerned for their children and when they put them is this school, they should be able to trust their coaches. There's a great assistant staff and there are great coaches, elsewhere. I just think it's time that Fitzhenry is sent somewhere else. It's just time for him to leave Pine Tree."

KETK will be on scene at the meeting Friday and will be updating via Twitter and Facebook on all of the developments.

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