A decision on the status of McClain High School graduate Joe B. Stewart being replaced as head basketball coach was tabled Monday at a Greenfield School Board meeting.
No one was scheduled on the agenda to speak to the board. However, board members and superintendent Quincey Gray called for a mid-meeting executive session for personnel matters, with Stewart joining them at one point. The executive session lasted just over three hours. Upon coming back into open session, no action was taken.
Ryan Olaker, who was in attendance, was listed on the agenda to be considered for employment as boys head basketball coach. But following the executive session, all board members, with the exception of Sandy Free, voted to table that consideration.
Stewart requested, but was not allowed to speak during the open session of the meeting that several members of the community attended in apparent support of Stewart.
“I appreciated Mrs. Gray and our board listening and hearing my heart on the issue of continuing at my alma mater and my mind about proposals to keep our program moving ahead into the future in a way that our community can feel good about,” Stewart said Wednesday.
Prior to Stewart returning to coach at his alma mater, McClain went nine straight seasons without posting a winning record in boys varsity basketball. Under Stewart, McClain has went 37-30 with two winning seasons in three years.
That nine-year losing streak was shock, because McClain went 472-170 from 1981-82 to 2008-09 under former coach Rick Van Matre.
“It was in this gym 59 years ago that I fell in love with basketball,” Stewart wrote in a prepared statement, speaking of the Buckskin gym. “In 1974 my high school coach became my role model. That coach and my McClain education became the catalyst for fulfilling my dream to be a coach and hopefully make a difference in young people’s lives.
“Three years ago my wife and I were warmly greeted by the board of education as I assumed leadership of Tiger basketball. Our plan was to emphasize core values, install a cutting edge system of play, and provide an education by a caring coach on and off the floor. Time and time again we emphasize ‘be your brother’s keeper’ and we see that exhibited behind me tonight. The results have been extremely rewarding and frankly, quite obvious. By every measure of success and significance, we believe we have delivered something special to our school and community.”
Stewart said that on April 20 he received a board-mandated coaching evaluation from the Greenfield athletic director. He said that in 31 years as a head coach he has received 14 evaluations, and that like the 13 previous ones, he was pleased to receive high marks during the most recent evaluation.
“Surprisingly, at the conclusion of that meeting I was given a message — ‘the district would be going in a different direction’ — and that I would not be offered a contract for next year. In light of our success and significance, I found such a statement to be very confusing and unfair.”
Stewart said he loves most aspects of coaching, but hates a few including: cutting team members at the beginning of a season, replacing a hard-working predecessor, making coaching staff changes, determining playing time and who should play jayvee, and defending coaching staff members regarding employment.
“In my three years here I have made these decisions as they are a part of my job description and in so doing feelings get hurt. For that I am truly sorry,” Stewart said.
“Our athletic website states: ‘The McClain athletic focus will be the student athletes. All decisions made and considerations taken will be with the young people at McClain in mind.’ Facts and what is best for these kids is not being followed in this decision,” he added. “I ask our board of education and superintendent to look for the good that has resulted from McClain basketball during my watch, put hurt and personal feelings aside, and make a professional decision to grant me the opportunity to remain in our School of Beauty building…”
In other business, Buckskin Elementary Principal Mike Shumate thanked the board and school administration for allowing the district to have face-to-face schooling this year.
“Think about where we all were this time last year,” he said. “We were at home and afraid. But allowing school to be in session has helped ensure the thriving of the children it serves, as well as the ones who serve them. Things that didn’t get to happen last year because of the pandemic are happening this year outside, like the Super Games and kindergarten graduation,” the latter of which Shumate called one of the “neatest, cutest, sweetest” thing the school does.
Also, as this year regular music programs open to the public have not been able to happen, music teacher Victoria Mikkelsen is recording students’ musical programs and posting them on the district website so parents and families can see them.
Shumate also updated board members on things around the school, like new mulching that was done around the property by a group of 4-H youngsters, and Buckskin students celebrating Autism Day on April 2 by wearing blue, even though there was no school that day.
In her report to the board, Gray noted that the district has been chosen as a regional representative for an Ohio Department of Education (ODE) study on how schools have managed to function amid the pandemic. She said Greenfield being chosen was based on the district having been able to stay fully open since the beginning of the school year. A group of teachers and students participated in a Zoom call with the Ohio Department of Education last week, and a group of parents are scheduled to participate this week.
Gray also noted that prom is Saturday, including a live grand march. People will be able to either attend the grand march at 6:30 p.m. in person, or view it on the McClain Facebook page. Those attending should wear masks and social distance.
The superintendent also reported that senior recognition for Laurel Oaks is May 20 at the Clinton County Fairgrounds grand stand. The rain date is May 24.
Consent agenda items included the acceptance of a letter of resignation from Cathy Mash, special programs secretary, for the purposes of retirement; a letter of resignation from Amber Iseman, elementary teacher; a letter of resignation from Kenneth Clifford, bus driver; cleaning bids from Commercial Cleaning Solutions for Rainsboro and Greenfield elementaries, cafeteria, old vocational building, and central office; a cleaning contract bid from S & S Janitorial for the middle school and the new vocational building; and a resolution to provide support for the families of Ohio service members.
Employment recommendations as approved by the board were: Eleanor Morrison, science teacher; Randa Storer, social worker; Maggie Dobson, clinical counselor; Mikel Pritchard, junior high track; Jo Ellen Gossett, annual; Blayne Weddington,band director; Jared Halter, assistant band director; David Weaks, assistant band director, middle school robotics, middle school technology aide, girls track assistant; Jarrod Haines, girls golf, girls basketball, senior class adviser; Nate Luke, junior class adviser, high school robotics, high school technology aide, boys track assistant; Mark Bihl, junior class adviser, girls basketball assistant; Carolyn Arthurs, sophomore class adviser; Ashley Kesler, freshman class adviser, science department leader; Lori Tuttle, high school Hi-Y and Drug Free Clubs of America; Kassie Hutchinson, National Honor Society, language arts department leader; Rachel Soards, art club, Quick Recall team adviser; Loretta Flora, dramatics, high school vocal music, middle school girls swimming; Jenny Mustard, student council adviser; Audrey Swann, student council adviser; Deborah Lagorio, student council assistant; Tati Weaks, Tigerettes; John Wilson, honor guard; Angie Barber, math department leader; Travis Snyder, social studies department leader; Jeana McNeal, girls swimming, Greenfield Elementary technology aide; Karen Mullikin, Buckskin technology aide; Tracey Cokonougher, assistant athletic advisor, ticket manager; Jacob Orr-Zody, head football coach, girls track, summer and winter weight room supervisor; Nate McNeal, fall and spring weight room supervisor; Vanessa Penwell, football and basketball cheerleading adviser; Kelly Bolender, football and basketball cheerleading assistant; Brandon Streitenberger, boys golf; Jason Evans, boys bowling, golf assistant; Keith Penwell, football assistant; Steve Roble, boys track, cross country; Marcia Starkey, soccer assistant; Nick McNeal, boys soccer, middle school boys swimming; Drew Hamilton, junior high track, girls basketball assistant; Leann Thieman, girls seventh grade basketball; Ashley Karnes, majorette adviser; Andrea Stark, junior high football and basketball cheerleading; Taylor Alsop, volleyball; Tyler Carmen, girls soccer, softball assistant; Ed Bolender, girls softball; and Josh McCoy, softball assistant.
Angela Shepherd, a correspondent for the Greenfield schools, contributed to this story.