The BKW board needs to talk to its constituents

To the Editor:

I attended the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board meeting on Monday and listened to quite a few impassioned speeches by people hoping to get Mr. [Andrew] Wright reinstated as the head basketball coach. I heard former and current players, fellow coaches and residents of the school district. Not a bad word was spoken.

I know Andy Wright only in passing. He seems like a nice enough guy. His record as coach is solid. I do not have a reason to care about who coaches the boys’ basketball team at BKW.  We have two girls. What I do care about is proper protocol and some common sense about athletics.

We have a hired gun as a superintendent, and I don’t mean that in a negative way.  He [Lonnie Palmer] is here to make some tough decisions, and then I assume he will move on. I do not know him any better than I know Andy Wright, but I can read a press release.

He seems to have a solid track record of positive change everywhere he goes.  That’s why this decision is so puzzling.  A decision that, if Monday’s meeting was any indication, fails to have the support of the majority of district residents.  A decision that has left the school without a varsity or junior varsity coach, and has put in place an interim athletic director with no deep knowledge of his coaches or athletes. A decision that will probably have other coaches looking over their shoulders.

I guess it is within his right to pick and choose who coaches what. Of course we don’t know for sure if there is any precedence for this, because he has maintained radio silence. Not allowed to discuss matters of personnel. We’ve heard that before.  I hope this will not be part of Lonnie Palmer’s legacy.

Unfortunately, I do not see how the current school board members can avoid this being part of theirs. To see them sit in awkward silence Monday night was sad. Sad that they would decide to pick this time to sit in solidarity. 

Where was the bickering and dissention we have grown to expect from our board? Not one of them saw this as poorly handled?  Not one of them thought to break ranks and say, “This isn’t right, let’s talk it out a little more”?

With cause or not, a person deserves an explanation as to why he loses a position. Not allowed to discuss matters of personnel. Once again, such a weak refrain.

We are not talking about high-stakes salary and benefit packages.  We are talking about a coach who probably spends more money on his team than he earns for holding the position in the first place.

Lastly, there was a lot of discussion about playing time. I guess I am in the dark about this one. Was this really part of the decision process? Who are you protecting here? Do we not encourage people to be the best they can be?

What were all those certificates handed out during the first part of the board meeting? The school board rewarded a select group of kids for working hard in the classroom. Those certificates wouldn’t have much meaning if everyone got one.

Are we going to have this discussion again when only one boy and one girl are picked for the lead roles in the musical?  Maybe we shouldn’t have a musical. Too many feelings hurt. Too much reality. People have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s OK.

I don’t remember my superintendents or school board members from my childhood.  I am not diminishing the role they played, but there was never any interaction.

However, I remember every one of my coaches in every sport I played from Pee Wee and Little League, to high school and college. A good one can make an impression and a difference.

I can’t say firsthand that Andy Wright is that kind of coach, but the people who can say it, said it loudly Monday night.  In its defense, the board has a lot of long meetings with no audience. Only hot topics draw the crowds. On this topic, though, I think the board members need to talk to their constituents. Soon.

Chris Curvin
Knox