Ex-coach seeks Gowanda board seat

File Photo Brandon Newell is running for a seat on the Gowanda Board of Education. Newell is a former Gowanda employee who was terminated from his coaching position at the District earlier this year.

GOWANDA — After he was terminated from his coaching position at the Gowanda Central School District, Brandon Newell was not sure what he could or could not do for the District he and his family call home. He asked if he was allowed to reapply for jobs at a later date; he asked permission to attend Board meetings as a member of the audience; and he addressed the Board several times during the time for public comments.

Now, he wants a seat at the table.

Newell is among five candidates for three open seats on the Gowanda Board of Education. Along with Newell, three other newcomers are running for a seat on the Board: Susan Bettker, Michael Gernatt, and Crista Monat. The current Board President, Max Graham, is running for re-election.

The three seats up for election are currently held by Graham, Board Vice President Dollene Christopher, and Jennifer Gernatt, who was appointed this past December. Gernatt was chosen by the Board to finish out the year in place of Shauna McMahon, who resigned from the Board to spend more time with her family and as the principal of Forestville Elementary School.

“The only way you can really make some changes and stand up for what is right is to join the Board itself,” Newell said. “If I can make any good come out of this, to always put the kids first and make sure nothing like this ever happens to a coach or a player again, I guess that’s the way to do it.”

Newell, a former Basketball and Lacrosse Coach at Gowanda High School, was terminated from the District 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 claims the incident occurred away from school property and no students were involved.

Newell claimed his termination was done without due process, and that Superintendent Dr. Robert Anderson did not wait to hear his side of the story before the decision to terminate his employment was made. “I think that I was wronged in the way the process was (handled),” Newell said. “There is no other way of putting it.”

While he consulted with an attorney, Newell chose not to sue the District. “I don’t believe it’s the District’s fault. I believe it’s more on an individual basis, and I believe it was the process in which it was done,” he said.

Newell had hoped to immediately return to his coaching role, and he was not alone in that hope. Many of his former players and their families signed a petition to reinstate Newell as a coach, but he remained as an observer in the stands, cheering on his former team for the remainder of the basketball season.

Newell claimed his initial discussions about rejoining the District as a coach in the future were shot down by Anderson. Still, he attends sporting events and Board meetings regularly as a member of the audience. The way he felt he was treated has fueled his desire to run for a seat on the Board, an idea he claims he started to consider several months ago. Prior to this year, Newell “never planned on being a politician.”

A member of the U.S. National Guard, Newell is a father of two young children in the District. He is on the Board of Directors for the American Legion in Gowanda. He has also coached multiple sports for over a decade, including both junior varsity boys basketball and modified lacrosse at Gowanda. He hopes to eventually return to coaching in some capacity, but hopes to make a change in other ways, as well.

“If I can’t coach, I’m going to still try to be there in every possible way for those guys, and for every kid moving forward,” Newell said.

Newell received the necessary amount of support from the community to appear on the ballot. Voting will take place at the annual School Budget vote at the District on May 21.


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