Cicero Three decades of work building one of the state’s top high school softball programs has come to a sudden end for Cicero-North Syracuse coach Kerry Bennett.
Just two months after leading the Northstars to another state Class AA final, Bennett was let go by the school district. He said the decision had to do with circumstances surrounding C-NS’s latest state final four appearance in Queensbury.
On June 9, the Northstars beat Valley Central 2-1 in the state semifinal round. Before playing Clarence in the championship game, one of C-NS’s players, senior Brittany Paul, left to attend the school’s senior ball. C-NS went on to lose the title game to Clarence 3-1.
Bennett said that, though Paul did leave early, other players stayed for the championship game and then attended that same senior ball.
A month later, at the July 9 meeting of the North Syracuse Board of Education, Paul and her father, Jeff, spoke to the board. Jeff Paul described a series of alleged incidents where both students and parents subjected her daughter to harassment, including cyber-bullying, car vandalism and threatening letters and messages left on her telephone.
Because of that, said Jeff Paul, her family did not attend the team's season-ending banquet, where he said posters and DVD's were handed out to her teammates that did not include Brittany in the photos. He also described a letter sent to the coaching staff at Lafayette University, where Paul will be attending college this fall.
"This is not an issue of agreeing or disagreeing with Brittany's decision to attend the (senior) ball," said Paul to the board. "This is about the repercussions that followed her decision."
Brittany Paul, who graduated near the top of her class at C-NS and was a part of two state Class AA championship basketball teams, also spoke to the school board at that July 9 meeting. She said the board had two choices - to take action against the coaching staff and other individuals, or not to take action.