SCRANTON ‚?? Former Dallas head football coach Ted Jackson believes he lost his job leading the Mountaineers on the gridiron because some school directors have a political affiliation with his replacement.
Jackson, 61, of Dallas, through his attorney, Kim Borland, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Dallas School District and six school directors alleging he was fired as head coach after he spoke out against the suspension of his son, Ted Jackson Jr., as a coach in the district.
Jackson Jr. was suspended as an assistant football coach for two games during the 2011 season after receiving unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in consecutive games. He stepped down as the high school‚??s basketball coach in November.
The lawsuit alleges school directors retaliated against Jackson by opening the position of head football coach in December.
Jackson applied for the position and claims in the lawsuit he was asked if he would agree to ‚??drop his son from his coaching staff if he was reappointed to the position.‚?Ě
Jackson claims he replied he would abide by policy of the district‚??s athletic department with respect to the hiring of assistant coaches.
Prior to Jackson‚??s interview, according to the lawsuit, school directors changed district policy from having assistant coaches selected by the head coach to being chosen by school directors.
School directors in February hired Robert Zaruta as head football coach.
The lawsuit alleges school directors Catherine Wega, Maureen B. Matiska, Karen B. Kyle, Larry G. Schuler, Richard G. Coslett and Charles Preece, who are named in the lawsuit, have a political affiliation with Zaruta.
Zaruta‚??s son, Bob Zaruta, is chairman of the Luzerne County Young Republicans, which supported the campaign of Stefanie Salavantis for Luzerne County district attorney.
Salavantis, a graduate of Dallas High School, won the post in the 2011 general election.
Salavantis‚?? brother, Stephen Salavantis, was appointed by school directors in February as a volunteer assistant football coach, according to minutes of the school board‚??s meeting.
Salavantis did not return a message for comment on Monday.
The suit alleges the named school directors supported Salavantis‚?? candidacy but does not specify how.
A review of Salavantis‚?? campaign finance reports did not show any contributions from Zaruta and school directors named in Jackson‚??s lawsuit.
Jackson claimed he has been head coach at Dallas since 1984, winning district and conference titles and the 1993 Class 2A state title, and has assisted numerous student athletes in going to college. He was replaced by Zaruta, who did not have any head coaching experience at the varsity level, according to the lawsuit.
Zaruta and Dallas school district solicitor Benjamin Jones did not return messages for comment.
Jackson alleged high school principal Jeffrey Shaffer in 2010 gave him a ‚??Satisfactory‚?Ě report of how he conducted himself coaching the football team on-and-off the field in 2010. Shaffer noted on the 2010 report, ‚??Mr. Jackson has done an excellent job of coaching his team this season.‚?Ě
Shaffer‚??s assessment of Jackson for the 2011 season was ‚??Unsatisfactory,‚?Ě noting Jackson failed to follow policies, used expletives during games, and failed to assist athletes in the process of gaining scholarships for college.
Shaffer noted in the 2011 evaluation that Jackson told the football team he was ‚??not sure he if was going to coach the Oct. 22 (2011) game v. Pocono Mountain as he was mad about suspension of assistant coach (Ted Jackson Jr.),‚?Ě the lawsuit says.
Jackson has an overall record of 221-74-3.