ER Sports: An Apology to North East
Continuing the North East conversation.
Editors' note: In our June 24 issue, Erie Reader Contributor James R. LeCorchick reported on – among other things – in his regular column, ER Sports, recent developments surrounding former North East High School basketball coach Tom Pyle. The column remains available online at ErieReader.com.
At the Reader, we encourage our contributors to utilize their columns to offer argument-based writing that features their opinions, regardless of whether they are in-line with that of the publication, as vehicles to create, drive, and continue conversation. The position of opinions notwithstanding, we strive to be accurate and fair in the presentation of any thought in the hopes of creating spirited, purposeful dialogue. And although we strive for excellence in each word we print, sometimes we fall short, a conversation isn't complete, or not all angles are explored, which is why you'll find below a letter we received from North East High School Principal Mr. Regan Tanner, which was edited for space constraints, and a response to it from Mr. LeCorchick.
Dear Erie Reader,
My name is Regan Tanner. I am the principal of North East High School, and I always enjoy reading your publication.
The June 24 issue contains an article about parents affecting roster choices and coaching changes in high school sports. I have in 26 years as a school employee seen this many times. A truly unfortunate event that occurs as long as society continues to put selfish needs and winning at the forefront of high school athletics.
The article in this issue refers to a former head basketball coach at North East, Tom Pyle. The issues that your article speaks of concerning Tom's coaching status are erroneous. There was not one complaint made to the North East High School athletic director or to me by any parent or player concerning Tom Pyle. There was not one complaint to our superintendent or to any member of the North East School District Board of directors concerning Tom Pyle. Your article indicates that this did occur. Where did you obtain that information?
Tom Pyle is an excellent coach and a personal friend of mine outside of school. His evaluation has always been the highest and never faltered. Because he simply chose not to continue coaching basketball at the varsity level at North East High School does not indicate anything of the sort that your article states. Tom is still coaching 7th grade basketball at North East as an assistant to Jason Keim. In fact, Tom was even asked to reconsider taking the head coaching position for the 2015-2016 school year after the deadline had passed. He asked for the weekend to think about it and chose to decline. The man does coach middle school football in the fall, the varsity throwers in track in the spring, and provides excellent mathematics instruction to sixth graders each year at North East Middle School.
Your story has stirred many rumors now in North East that are unfair to Tom. Once something is written, it is hard to correct. His former players are asking "What happened," "Who complained," etc. I tell them, "No one did." "But Mr. Tanner, there was an article that said he was fired because parents complained to the school board?" I tell them that this is not true.
Tom Pyle has done a lot of things as a teacher and a coach to help students succeed in life. That is what we hope all of our staff will do. Character and truth are the foundation of what North East High School athletics strives for. Tom was always a model of these ideals.
Why did no one contact me or our athletic director as to these claims? Why add the drama of a story that is incorrect? People's lives are affected by stories like this. Sometimes people just want a break, a rest, or to simply move on to a new place in life.
My sincere hope is that a retraction would be printed that corrects the false information in the article for Mr. Pyle's sake and that of North East High School. Secondly, my other request would be that in the future, when articles about North East High School are written, please call me, and I will gladly give you the truth. I have nothing to hide and will gladly take ownership for whatever I have failed to do. If this had happened, I can assure you that I would have gone with Tom because I would not want to work in a place and represent an organization that would allow something like that to happen. That is what my mentor and former North East Principal Tim Welsh, my father, and 26 years of working for a quality school district have taught me.
Regan B. Tanner, principal, North East High School
I read your letter very closely several times, and I have to say that your points are valid and I was a producer of poor reporting. Some people have trouble admitting they were wrong, but I don't have that problem. Maybe I have had too much practice at this.
I did talk to people that I was confident in having the entire story, however, as you pointed out, I did not contact the correct sources. One thing I have learned in more than 40 years of reporting is to never jump to conclusions and assumptions. Apparently the lesson didn't stick, as I was guilty of both.
Parental over-involvement is a pet peeve of mine, and I definitely jumped the gun. As has been said many times, "The reporter didn't want the facts to get in the way of a good story." I was that reporter.
With this being said, I apologize to the North East School Board and everyone at North East High School, as well as my colleagues at the Erie Reader.
I do want to congratulate Coach Pyle on a great career and wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors. He has been one of the most respected coaches in the Erie area for the past 15 years, and I am sure he will continue to represent the North East District with the same class he has always exuded.
I would also like to wish Coach Keim good luck in heading up the Grape Pickers' basketball program. He is an impressive young man.
I have no excuses.
James R. LeCorchick