Saratoga school athletics report: District acted appropriately in most instances, except in oversight of track program

School district report released on athletics

School district report released on athletic culture at Saratoga Springs.

A report investigating allegations of an abusive culture in Saratoga Springs has concluded that the district acted appropriately in most instances, but said that “effective oversight” was not always in place regarding the cross country and track and field coaches.

Those were the conclusions of a report by the Harris Beach law firm in its 40-page report looking into whether there was an abusive culture in the district’s athletics.

The Board of Education hired the Rochester-based firm after it received allegations that players were forced to play through injuries and bullied them. Many of the claims centered around the running program including allegations that they forced to practice year round.

The report found that the district acted appropriately to investigate complaints in the girls lacrosse, soccer and boys basketball program.

Much of the report is focused on the actions of Art and Linda Kranick, who have coached the cross-country teams for decades.

Among the concerns were encouraging runners to practice seven days per week all year round and in all kinds of weather.

The report mentions that periodically, the district officials would meet with the Kranicks to discuss various complaints and there were agreements made to change their policies and practices.

For example, in April 2014, then-Superintendent Michael Piccirillo and the athletic director at the time met with the Kranicks to discuss concerns brought by three families regarding overtraining, inappropriate behavior toward runners and communication to parents, the report said.

In addition, the district said they expected that the Kranicks would create a handbook for review spelling out those issues.

However, the report said that the Kranicks appeared to retaliate against one of the runnners who said she did not want to participate in Sunday runs, by excluding her from the spring track and field season. They also expressed concern that runners were training in dangerous weather conditions and the students were asked to jump onto a moving treadmill. Piccirillo met with the Kranicks again in July 2014.

“Notably, Superintendent Piccirillo considered not reappointing the Kranicks to their coaching positions for the 2014-2015 season, based on the ongoing nature of allegations against the track and field program. Ultimately, the District determined that it would provide parents, as well as the Kranicks with the opportunity to further address the complaints from this period in an executive session if they elected to do so. There is no record of any subsequent executive session(s). It should also be noted that the district did not take any steps to remove the Kranicks from their coaching positions at this time,” the investigators wrote in their report.  

Another couple of parents brought forth similar concerns about the Kranicks in 2019 including overtraining, placement of inserts in sneakers without parental consent and miscommunication. Nick McPhartland, the athletic director, at the time said he listened to their concerns.

“They got the impression from him that since the track and field program was well known, it would be hard to change things,” he said.

The report went on to say that there was a limited exchange of email use of the orthotics in sneakers.

“There does not appear to have been substantive follow-up from the initial meeting regarding the other complaints. The district did not produce any documentation to support steps taken with or about the Kranicks following the meeting.”

The report said that they did not find credible evidence that the Kranicks exerted undue influence over runners’ diets.

“When interviewed, Linda Krancik spoke about the importance of ‘reloading’ from calories burned during runs and how she and Art would encourage the runners, especially the girls, to take in simple carbs that are easily absorbed.”

They stressed the importance of nutrition, caring for one’s body and weight training.

“Their advice and instruction to the runners appears to have been consistent, made in good faith and does not amount to problematic conduct,” the report said.

Investigators said Art Kranick was not made available to be interviewed because of health issues.

When contacted by NewsChannel 13, Linda Kranick hung up the phone.

The district in a statement said that they plan to work with the Connecticut Association of Schools – Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to conduct an intensive review of the athletic program. It will also take a global review of coaches internal guidelines, policies and practices regarding training, promotion of academic achievement, modeling good sportsmanship and appropriate behavior, character development, ethics, values and living healthy and drug-free lifestyle.

“We will monitor progress on these remedial actions and report on key stages of their implementation at future meetings of the Board of Education,” the district said in the statement. “To the extent that the findings issued in the Harris Beach report and the remedial actions listed above may lead to changes in coaching personnel in any of our athletic programs, District Administration will handle those matters in accordance with our human resources practices and policies as well as applicable laws and regulations.”