October 16 - Multiple sources have indicated the situation surrounding the head coaching position at Patriot will be among the topics covered at tonight’s Prince William County School Board meeting.
The school board’s interest in the matter and tonight’s discussion, which would be held during the meeting’s closed session, could be one of the factors delaying the school’s search for a new coach. Five of the applicants for the position confirmed that as of last night they had not heard from the school’s director of student activities, Brad Qualls, indicating the process could be in a holding pattern.
The advertisement for the position on the PWCS website closed 17 days ago, on Sept. 30. Coaching candidates are generally contacted the week following the closing of an advertised position, with interviews scheduled soon thereafter.
The Pioneers’ vacancy was created on Sept. 18, when Qualls and an assistant principal at the school met with coach Josh Steinberg and informed him that his contract would not be renewed for the 2020 season. School officials did not respond to multiple inquiries requesting reasons for the dismissal, citing an inability to comment on personnel matters.
The magazine has confirmed several of those reasons given by Qualls, some of which included: weeds on the field’s warning track, attendance at boosters club meetings, players spotted in batting cages without helmets, and hats not being ordered in the past on the DSA’s Oct. 1 mandated deadline. No reasons provided by Qualls were related to on-field success, issues with parents or players, spring break incidents or bad language used by the coach - examples of common reasons for a school to part ways with a coach.
Qualls initially met on Sept. 9 with Steinberg, who went 67-24 over his four seasons, and attempted to gain the coach’s resignation. Steinberg declined and later that day he contacted the school’s principal, Mike Bishop, who indicated he was unaware of Qualls’ intentions. Bishop refuted that inference along with the magazine’s reports in a letter he sent to parents and players and posted on the school’s athletics website on Sept. 23. In that letter, the principal wrote that “there are times you need to make decisions that some will not like. This happens to be one of those occasions.”
That is overwhelmingly the case among current and former Patriot players. In a survey circulated by the magazine, 100 percent of the 33 players that responded said they didn’t support Qualls’ decision to dismiss the coach. Of the 41 parents who responded, 36 said they didn’t support the decision.
Two members of Steinberg’s staff, varsity assistant Keith Howell and junior varsity coach Rich Davila, resigned and have publicly supported the coach on social media. Two other assistants, Sean Cheetham and Matt Holman, have at least temporarily been retained and are leading offseason practices on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2:30 p.m.. Both are listed on the school’s athletics website.
Bishop, who has been under fire in the past for unrelated issues and at one point had a lawsuit filed against a former PWCS school board member, was reached by the magazine after releasing his letter. He hung up the phone once he realized who had called him. A video detailing Bishop’s role in Steinberg’s dismissal was posted yesterday, the latest in a series of documentations related to the principal.
The handling of the situation by Bishop and Qualls has raised a number of questions in and around the Nokesville school and in the Northern Virginia baseball community.
Now, the PWCS school board seems to have some of its own regarding Steinberg’s ouster and the circumstances surrounding it. Public backlash over the dismissal of the popular and successful coach, a teacher at the school, has included dozens of public comments of support and several parents contacting school board members. It’s unclear if any of those parents plan to attend or speak at the public session tonight.
Steinberg has maintained a desire throughout the magazine’s coverage not to comment on the matter.
Note: The magazine does not identify applicants for coaching vacancies, as some are currently assistant or head coaches at other area high school programs and may not want their candidacy made public.