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Former coach speaks on termination

Anita Howard, an attorney, spoke on behalf of Brandon Newell, a former employee of the Gowanda Central School District, who was terminated Jan. 9.

GOWANDA — A former Gowanda basketball coach who was recently terminated from his role during his team’s season believes he was unfairly punished without due process.

Brandon Newell, the former Junior Varsity Boys Basketball Coach at Gowanda High School, was terminated from his position as of Jan. 9. Newell claims the action was taken by the Gowanda Central School District because of an incident that took place at a party during winter break involving Newell and another District employee. Newell stated the incident occurred away from school property and no students were involved.

Newell said he was in an argument with a District employee and a member of the employee’s extended family. He claims he was pushed during the argument before he attempted to leave, at which point the altercation continued.

“This had nothing to do with school,” Newell said. He believed there was “no way” he could face repercussions for the incident.

Newell said once school resumed after break, he was called in for a meeting with Superintendent Dr. Robert Anderson. Newell claims at that meeting, he was not given an opportunity to present his side of what happened before he was told he would be terminated.

“When Dr. Anderson called me in, he already had a letter of suspension in front of him. There was no due process,” Newell said. “He already was going to suspend me regardless. It didn’t matter what I said or how I said it.”

Newell claimed he needed to receive permission to attend a recent Board of Education meeting after his meeting with Anderson. He attended the regular Board of Education meeting on Feb. 7 as a member of the audience and also stated he plans to attend future Board of Education meetings moving forward.

“(Anderson) banned me from school property at the meeting he and I had, which he had no grounds to do because I’m not a threat. I haven’t caused any issues for kids or anything like that,” Newell said.

Newell said his team and parents of the players stood behind him after the incident that resulted in his termination. A petition was circulated throughout the school community to keep Newell in his position as a coach.

Newell retained an attorney, Anita Howard, to speak on his behalf and advise him on how to proceed. Newell claims he is unsure of whether or not he will pursue legal action against the district in response to his termination.

“My ultimate goal is to coach these kids again,” Newell said. “That’s the whole reason I did this. These kids mean more to me than a paycheck or recognition. I just want to be able to see these guys succeed and to continue the family based environment that I instilled.”

Four guests at a Gowanda Board of Education meeting in late January addressed the Board on Newell’s behalf. Among them were his attorney, two other adults, and a former player. The Junior Varsity Boys Basketball Team did not attend the meeting because of a game scheduled that night, but a statement was submitted on behalf of the team.

One speaker said, on behalf of Newell, “He is a great role model, encouraging to the boys. He focuses on their strengths, never asking them to do warmups or workouts that he would not be willing to do alongside them.”

A former player stated, “Coach Newell was more than just like a coach to me, he made me feel like I was actually a part of the team. He made me feel included. … He made me feel better about myself.”

Newell noted that not only was his team successful on the court, with only one non-league loss against its record through the first half of the season; success was had off the court, as well. Newell claims he had multiple students see their grades improve over the season. He claims he held his team to a high standard on and off the court.

“The hardest thing here is it impacts the kids,” Newell said. “We are a family, that’s the way I run my team. We’re with each other more often than we’re with our own families half the time. … That’s the way we operate, that’s the way we’ve always done it, and that’s why my team was successful.”

The District declined to comment on Newell’s termination when contacted by the OBSERVER.

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