Poor field forces move of Poly home games

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Poly's football field is unfit for use, and its team will play all of its games on the road this fall.

In addition, Poly athletic director Mark Schlenoff could face disciplinary action for accepting a gift of topsoil that was spread at Lumsden-Scott Stadium. The new soil didn't improve the field.

Finding bare spots, uneven areas and rocks scattered around the field on Aug. 7, city grounds crew chief William Taylor informed Schlenoff the field was unsafe for play.

Taylor, who referred all questions to city schools public relations director Vanessa Pyatt, told Poly the field required new topsoil and reseeding - at an estimated cost of $40,000.

"We've made plans for the football team to play all of its [home] games at alternate sites," said Pyatt. "That will be the case until we can make necessary repairs, reopen the field and assure the safety of the students playing on the field."

Pyatt said Poly's field must wait in line behind other city school projects. She did not project a date when the field could be repaired.

Soil given to Poly "contained rocks and other debris" when it was delivered last November, Pyatt said, but was nevertheless applied to the field in May, at the urging of Schlenoff and then-principal Ian Cohen.

Schlenoff, however, said Cohen, who has since retired, did not authorize the use of the donated soil. Schlenoff said that he took sole responsibility for that.

Pyatt said Schlenoff is under investigation for not adhering to rules regarding "how we accept materials and supplies and donations of goods and services."

Regulations require a principal to ask permission from city school headquarters before accepting any kind of gift for a school, Pyatt said.

Schlenoff, in his 14th year at the school, could face disciplinary action ranging from a written reprimand to termination. He said he accepted the soil from a friend in the landscaping business only "after calling Bill Taylor, who said he would help me to spread it."

Schlenoff wouldn't name the donor to The Sun, nor has Schlenoff identified him to city school administrators.

"I would not have done any of this had I not gotten the assurance of the grounds shop that it was OK to accept it and they would help me by using their equipment and their manpower to spread it," Schlenoff said.

"I thought, based on my conversation with Taylor in November, that we hadn't done anything incorrectly."

Schlenoff blamed overuse for the field's condition, citing the three games played by Washington-area football teams there last fall during the sniper situation.

Also, Poly annually holds playoff games involving city schools, and last fall, consecutive City-Edmondson and South Hagerstown-Dunbar games shredded a muddy field.

"At the end of the last football season, promises were made" by grounds administrators, said Schlenoff. "They were like, 'Don't worry about it. We'll take care of it.' But no one ever did."

Pyatt said conditions worsened after grounds workers applied the soil in the spring.

Schlenoff said the mounds gathered debris while piled on asphalt outside Poly's stadium.

"The grounds crew did lay some of that dirt, but not as a condition of it being acceptable for play. It was clearly understood from the beginning that this dirt simply did not meet specifications," said Pyatt.

"My understanding is that then-principal Ian Cohen was concerned about the field condition as graduation time was approaching."

NOTES: Artificial turf football fields are expected to be in place at Calvert Hall and St. Paul's in mid- to late September. ... Boys' Latin and Gilman are being upgraded with turf auxiliary fields. ... Woodlawn should be equipped by mid-October with 2,000-spectator bleachers, a press box with telephones and a computer data system, said athletic director Michael Sye. The project is costing $600,000.

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