Putnam superintendent discourages petition drive over graduation speaker

WINFIELD, W.Va. — The class of 2014 at Winfield High School will head into the world next week without parting words from legendary high school football coach Leon McCoy.

McCoy’s address during commencement exercises had become a tradition at the school over the last two or three decades. However, due to complaints about his religious references in his address and the fact he’s retiring from the school system, McCoy won’t be part of this year’s ceremony.

“We got some complaints filed last year and I forwarded those to the school just so they would be aware,” said Putnam County School Superintendent Chuck Hatfield. “Over that period of time I guess the school decided that Mr. McCoy was retiring and it was time to put that whole thing to a close.”

The decision to not add McCoy to the lineup has riled a number of community members and members of the Winfield senior class. Some of the students have started a petition drive to request McCoy be added to the list. Social media has been abuzz with the matter and in many cases Hatfield said that hasn’t’ been the best for anyone involved.

“Our biggest concern right now is trying to get the focus on the graduating class of Winfield High School,” Hatfield said. “We don’t want this to take away from them; those kids are only going to graduate one time.”

Hatfield said the matter was settled when Principal Bruce McGrew and McCoy had a discussion and McCoy hasn’t raised a fuss about it. He said there has never been a formal decision made on the matter by him or the Board of Education. However, when complaints are lodged, particularly in writing, they have to be addressed.

“We’re in a position we have to protect everybody’s rights,” Hatfield said. “Whether we agree with them or whether we don’t.”

McCoy told WCHS-TV he wanted to make it very clear he holds no ill will toward anyone at the school or board office. He said graduation day should be about the kids not him. McCoy added he has great respect for the school administration.


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