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Chatfield School Board examines controversial coaching situation


By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Apr 19th, 2013
Posted in Chatfield Education

The Chatfield School Board discusses the coaching contracts for fall and winter sports for the 2013-2014 school year at its April 15 meeting. Photo by Mitchell Walbridge

By Mitchell Walbridge

The room was packed at the Chatfield School Board meeting on Monday, April 15 as parents, students, and district staff members were in attendance to show their support for head basketball coach Tom Bance. This is after a signed petition had been submitted to the board from some parents who felt Coach Bance should not have his boys basketball contract renewed for the 2013-2014 school year. Over the past week board members have received numerous emails and phone calls in support of Bance, but also some calls for the non-renewal of Bance’s contract.

Tim Hebrink, a resident of Chatfield, was one of two people who personally addressed the board on this issue during the district patron time. Hebrink stated that he has become familiar with Coach Bance’s basketball program over the years and felt that the coach does an adequate job in educating and supporting his team members. Carmen Berge, the Chatfield Education Association co-president, announced on behalf of the teachers at Chatfield that they stand behind Coach Bance as basketball coach. Berge explained that they [the CEA] felt that after analyzing the code of ethics for coaches, none had been violated. Also, Berge pointed out that the school board did not complete a full investigation of the allegations after ethics complaints. Then Berge brought up that according to Minnesota State High School League procedure, the complaints would need to be reviewed before talk of contract non-renewal is even suggested.

Before the board reviewed the situation and rendered a decision later in the meeting, Board Chair Jerry Chase made it clear that the board has seen at least four controversial issues arise including the building referendum, removing the valedictorian position, teacher contract negotiations, and the hiring of superintendents. Just like managing these issues, Chase explained that board members always review the data before casting their votes and will do the same in this situation. He said, “The board does not waiver under pressure.” Because he felt that the board held some responsibility for not having an adequate communication and evaluation process in place for coaches, Chase voted to approve Tom Bance’s contract for next year in hopes that concerns will be resolved under the developing activities committee and activities director position.

Most board members agreed with Chase. Board Clerk Greg LaPlante gave his input saying, “We don’t have a process in place to allow us to see the problems.” Kathy Schellhammer commented, “There’s room for improvement.” Tom Sturgis shared his feelings on how difficult coaching is and that people who make mistakes should be given a chance to correct them. Matt McMahon thanked everyone for their input as it helps the board to see different perspectives. In contrast, Mike Tuohy stated he would not support Bance for another year after seeing too many similar issues originating from the basketball program.

The administrative recommendation read by Superintendent Edward Harris stated, “The administration recommends to the School Board that the 2012-2013 fall and winter coaches be offered contracts for next year so they have an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their ability to positively function in an identified and agreed upon system of program management and growth. The board voted 5-1 to keep Coach Bance for another year.

Other Business

The board approved motions to approve Pep Club Advisors Stacey Hogberg and Blake Jansen. Also, the resignation of Krista Swisher, an early childhood teacher for the district, was approved. A motion was approved for the non-renewal of teaching contracts of probationary teachers Rachel Erz and Mary Catherine Johnson.

The board moved to advance the 1 to 1 Mobile Device Program that the district would like to implement. Superintendent Harris explained that this program would put current technology, such as I-pads for example, into the hands of students to advance their education. The program would take about six years to fully put into place with an initial cost of $128,000 with $10,000 of upkeep each following year.

Before concluding, the board announced that the May 17 early dismissal has been cancelled. The next school board meeting is May 20 at 7:00 p.m.

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