Just days after it was revealed that Ron Kelder would not be retained as the Kingston High School varsity boys basketball coach, school officials confirmed that his return would be recommended after all. This followed a public wave of support for Kelder after news broke two weeks ago that Kingston City School District Director of Health, Physical Education & Athletics Rich Silverstein declined to renew his contract.
“I base my recommendations on my own personal observations and evaluations of every coach in our district,” said Silverstein last week. “When it comes to the specifics, I am not going to be recommending Ron Kelder for the position of varsity boys basketball [coach] based solely on my evaluations and observations.”
Kelder served as the Tigers’ head coach for the past 22 seasons, amassing a record of 289-159 (.645) with just a single losing season in two decades under his tenure. Kingston played in the Section IX finals nine times under Kelder, winning the title from 2002-04 and again in 2013.
Most recently, Kelder coached the Tigers to a 16-6 record and a visit to the Section IX, Class AA semis in the 2017-18 season.
“Ron has done an amazing job for many, many years for our student athletes here in Kingston,” said Silverstein, the day before last week’s school board meeting. “We are all very proud and happy with the job that he has done with us for many years, and he has helped elevate many athletes in their high school careers as our coach. Unfortunately I’ve decided to take the basketball program into a little different direction, and I won’t be recommending Ron for this position. I have spoken with Ron personally recently and informed him of my intent.”
But during a meeting of the Board of Education the following evening, members of the public voiced support for Kelder and shared concern about the decision to let him go.
“I am requesting that the Board investigate our athletic department,” said Carmela Genther. “I am also asking that you look into the evaluation process and policies. I think it is in the best interests of our student athletes, as well as coaches, that this happens sooner than later.”
Kelder’s sister-in-law Carole Kelder, a district resident and principal at Mount Marion Elementary School in the Saugerties Central School District, told the board she believed friction between the coach and the athletic director may have contributed to the Kingston district losing out on an opportunity to host a talk by baseball legend Darryl Strawberry, who will instead appear at Saugerties High School on Friday, June 8.
“I’m a member of the community, I’m also an educator, and I’m the mother of a child who overdosed on heroin in August of 2015,” said Kelder. “When that happened, our family without hesitation knew that we had to be open about how Ryan died. We also knew that we had to do something that could help other people in this community who were suffering the same way that we did. I run a grassroots organization called Raising Your Awareness about Narcotics: The acronym, R.Y.A.N.”
Through R.Y.A.N. fundraising, both the Kingston and Saugerties districts last year hosted a similar talk by former NBA star Chris Herren. The latter was open to the public at Kate Walton Field House and was attended by around 2,000 people.
“Chris shared his descent into addiction followed by his miraculous recovery, celebrating almost 10 years clean,” said Kelder in an interview with the Saugerties Times. “Last year’s event changed the lives of so many. About five or six weeks after Chris came and spoke, one person wrote to us to let us know that hearing Chris’s story saved him.”
Carole Kelder said Ron Kelder brought the Darryl Strawberry event to Silverstein’s office but hadn’t gotten anywhere.
“I don’t want to speak for him, and I don’t know the specifics, but I know that he really wasn’t getting a clear answer,” she said. “As time went on and we either had to secure a date or not, I reached out several times to the athletic department…and I didn’t get a response … I don’t know where the breakdown in communication came.”
Padalino this week said he thought it was too late to try and salvage a Strawberry event, but after speaking with Carole Kelder after the School Board meeting he made it clear that the district would like to work with R.Y.A.N. in the future.
“I don’t know where that breakdown was,” Padalino said. “It never got to my desk. I told her if there was ever a hold up or any kind of confusion, or she isn’t getting a response that she could and should call me. We look forward to partnering with them again.”
While the KCSD may have lost out on hosting Darryl Strawberry, they still have an opportunity to retain Ron Kelder as their basketball coach. According to Superintendent Paul Padalino, Silverstein can make recommendations to the superintendent, but only the superintendent can then bring recommendations to the school board. And Padalino said he planned to recommend Kelder remain the boys’ basketball coach, something he expects to happen at the June 6 school board meeting.
“I think it was a lack of proper communication,” Padalino said. “I take responsibility for that. I think we need to make sure people understand and realize that recommendations regarding personnel come to me and are reviewed at this level before anything else happens. That’s my responsibility. At the end of the day I don’t think that Mr. Silverstein had received the best guidance or instruction on how we want things done, and we got a little ahead of ourselves. Luckily enough we caught it, and my recommendation will be for Mr. Kelder to continue as basketball coach.”
Ron Kelder declined comment for this story.