-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
The headline, tucked inside the paper like most news coming from run-of-the-mill cyclical meetings, read simply “Sto-Rox Director Ken Hohman resigns school board,” and the story would’ve made Sgt. Joe Friday proud. Just the facts. Hohman, Sto-Rox alum and longtime area resident, had given up his seat on the board.
I supported, even encouraged, the move. As the story noted, Hohman had been censured multiple times and his relationship with most of the board was damaged to the point where he was being frustrated and boxed out. His responsibilities had been stripped, and his access limited.
I thought it best for all involved that Ken Hohman step down. In truth, I was mostly concerned about Hohman himself. A lifelong friend of mine, being boxed out and frustrated was not likely good for his health, and at our age, it doesn’t take thrill ride level fluctuations in blood pressure to perhaps add woe to trouble.
Even though I supported him stepping aside, it pained me some to do so.
Hohman, perhaps as much as anyone at all and certainly more than most, has been a magnificent supporter of his alma mater for decades. He loves that school to the point that he takes it as a personal affront when folks send their kids to charter schools, private schools (as have I,) or move out of the district to send their kids to another district’s schools.
He’s raised lots of money for school events and teams, and built relationships with several local businesses to provide rewards for scholarly success and pristine attendance. He’s chaired upstart responses to community problems – like an anti-violence group he helped found after three neighborhood youths were killed in 2012 – and often rang phones from coast to coast asking for support from alumni for local needs.
He’s served as sports announcer, scorekeeper, and coach, often juggling all three throughout the course of a year’s different sporting contests.
When I met him, I was about to turn 9 years old and trying out for baseball. Ken was 15 or 16, I’d guess. Even at that age, he was giving of himself. Other kids were working on hot rods and hanging out at the pool hall, but Hohman was assisting Lenny Pesce in coaching his Little League team, the Indians, on which I ended up playing first base.
Ken lived just about as far from the fields as one could here in town and didn’t drive… but if he couldn’t hook a ride, there he would be riding the old Shoe Leather Express up to Kennedy for practices and games.
Even then, Ken could drive those he worked with a bit nutty.
He believed in the bunt, and would send in the sign at least once an inning to have someone lay the ball down. Sometimes Mr. Baker and Mr. Pesce, the other coaches and significantly older than Ken, would agree with a bunt. Sometimes not. Then there would be a “discussion” just outside the dugout. Sometimes he’d get his way, sometimes not, but without fail he’d have his say. On occasion, if he got real fired up, the other coaches would have him “walk it off” by going to the concession stand for a Pepsi.
Ultimately, the odd pairing of personalities on the coaching staff worked. We weren’t the most athletically talented team, but that crew got us to the championship, and often it was Hohman’s baseball I.Q. that helped us overcome some of the pure athleticism other teams had over us.
I was reminded of that surety and feistiness when Hohman upset many of the other school board directors a couple of years ago by voting no on their fiscal emergency plan.
Most of the board wanted to present a united front as they voted to raise local homeowners’ property taxes each year for the next five years, but Ken – noting how many folks are retired and on fixed incomes here in town, wasn’t going to put his name on that. He argued and made his point, convincing no one to side with him, nor budging their direction neither. When the tax votes were tallied, the taxes were going up. But Ken Hohman – always willing to stand alone when convicted in his heart – stood in objection.
There are other reasons why folks aligned against and even censured Hohman – the latest seemingly involved him calling to check on one of his former basketball players after she’d been let go from employment at the school over an infraction – but those reasons align fairly well with why people voted him, and his heart, onto the board to begin with.
I don’t believe I’d encourage him to ever run again. There are other areas Ken Hohman can have impact here in town, and I’m sure his mind is already mulling those over. I also don’t believe anyone could stop him from winning if he chose to run again.
In general, folks don’t vote for officials to get along and not ruffle feathers. In particular, I don’t think anyone that voted for Hohman in the first place thought they were voting for a go-along-to-get-along type.
They were voting for him to fight for what he felt was right, and, having seen him bleed green and white through five decades of contributing, they trust him to have the best interest of this community and its schools at heart.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.