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Longtime Girls Basketball Coach Is Out

By Rich Thomaselli
HVSR Staff

COLD SPRING – After a contentious meeting and despite public votes of confidence from players, parents and residents, the Haldane Central School District Board of Education voted unanimously to terminate girls basketball coach Tyrone Searight.

The 49-year old coach, who has been at the helm of the successful Blue Devils program for 11 years, was arrested in October on charges of defrauding the state of New York of nearly $17,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

Searight was injured while on the job as a bus driver for the MTA, but the state Inspector General’s office investigated the claim and found that Searight continued to coach during the seven months he claimed benefits from his fulltime job. The IG’s report noted that Searight was able to stand, squat, move up and down the sideline and generally gesticulate while coaching.

Searight pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and made restitution in full.

The coach spoke at the board meeting on his own behalf, saying “It was a mistake that I filled out. I did everything in my power to get this situation resolved.”

Several parents and community members spoke during the public comment period, supporting the coach, and current girls basketball standout Olivia McDermott also spoke.

“This will do more damage than you think,” she told the board before the vote.

Nonetheless, the school board followed the recommendation of district Superintendent Phil Benante to terminate Searight.

“I don’t think anyone who has spoken this evening is being at all unreasonable,” Benante said at the meeting. “I can empathize and appreciate where you’re coming for. That being said, it’s just something I see differently and I hope that over the long term this doesn’t come as a consequence to my relationship with our community.”

Also during the meeting, the mother of current coach Jessica Perrone, who was elevated to the varsity position after coaching the JV, claimed that her daughter was receiving nasty phone calls about the situation and that Searight refused to give her a playbook. Searight said he did not have a playbook to give to Perrone, who remains the head coach.

Many attendees were also upset that the decision to terminate Searight came in one vote, the consent agenda, which also included such items as hirings and retirements. The board unanimously approved the consent agenda; afterward, after being questioned several times as to why Searight’s termination wasn’t voted on separately, School Board President Jen Daly said that no one on the board made a motion to pull it off the consent agenda and vote on it separately.

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