Overflow crowd upset over demotion of popular athletic director at Hazelwood Central HS

NORTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KPLR) – There was an overflow crowd for the Hazelwood School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.  Several of the people attending indicated they were showing support for John Pukala.  Pukala’s attorney told FOX 2 his client, the current athletics and activities director at Hazelwood Central High School, was being removed from his position and was offered a position with a $40,000 a year pay cut.

“He went to school here.  He grew up in this community and just to throw somebody out it only leaves me to believe, you know, that it’s a vindictive move by the head of H.R. and the leadership here in the school district,” said newly sworn in board member Mark Behlmann.

Pukala’s attorney said his client reported concerns about money missing from an activities fund to the principal of the school and then eventually school security.  The attorney said that principal quietly left the district.  St. Louis County Police confirm the district conducted an internal investigation into the missing money but police were never involved.

Supporters of Pukala now want to know why he’s being targeted.

“It’s just vindictive. It’s a terrible thing to do,” said Behlmann.

Several current and former students showed up to show their support for Pukala.

“I believe what’s going on is wrong,” said former student Kyle Harris.  “He’s been here for 32 years.  In all reality, we should be congratulating him on his career and they’re trying to get rid of him which just isn’t right.”

Several current students attended the school board meeting wanting to have their voices heard during the public comment portion of the meeting.  They were told they would not be able to discuss the issue because it was not on the agenda.  They walked out of the meeting to thunderous applause.

A district spokeswoman told FOX 2 the district does not comment on personnel matters and therefore would not be able to offer a response.