OXFORD– Frustration, anger and emotions boiled over Wednesday night (Oct. 17) as the Board of Directors for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district faced a crowd demanding answers and action in the wake of the resignation of long-time softball coach Jim White.
The popular coach with 18 years at the helm of the varsity squad quit his coaching position with the intent to fill a vacancy in Solon’s program. During his tenure, White led the Clippers to six state championships, two state runner-up titles and a pair of state third-place finishes. While word of his departure spread on Monday, Oct. 15, and was reported by local media the next day, his actual letter of resignation was received at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Seven people spoke during the public forum portion of the regular monthly meeting. Before speaking, they were advised state law prohibits naming individuals in a public forum, and that the board was unable to respond to any comments. Superintendent Dr. Denise Schares acknowledged the receipt of email communication relating to the matter.
Rachel Campbell reviewed White’s accomplishments as coach and mentor, including the number of athletic scholarships students were receiving. Campbell said on average, three athletes receive scholarships in part to White’s efforts. She also described the district as a “laughing stock” for losing the coach.
An emotional Kelly McDonald spoke twice, once as a proxy for assistant coach Kira Hennes, and on her own behalf as a former player. In her own comments, McDonald told of how a lackluster team found success. “We weren’t that good. It was the coach who got us there,” McDonald said. She told of how White taught them to succeed, not just on the diamond, but also in life. “I just feel bad for people coming up who won’t get that experience. Well, they could… if they go to a different school.”
McDonald’s tears were followed by anger as former board member Sherri Pitkin took the board to task for White’s departure.
“You made someone miserable enough after 26 years (with the district as both teacher and coach), that they left.” However, White will continue to teach at CCA. Pitkin said White insisted on good grades, solid skills and leadership– traits students need to succeed and which can help with scholarships outside of athletics. “You’ve done a lot of damage to Clear Creek Amana,” Pitkin said. “For the first time in my life, I’m ashamed of the district.”
Patty Hackathorn said of White’s departure, “There’s more to it than meets the eye. He’s not going to a bigger school, he’s not moving out of the district.” When Hackathorn said she was disappointed, it brought a round of applause.
Elmer Beckler said he had been getting calls from other coaches, fans and even umpires asking him, “What in the hell is going on?” Beckler warned the board members, “You will be held accountable at the next election.” In comments after the meeting Beckler told the North Liberty Leader, “He didn’t leave because (Solon is) a better option. He felt like people in this administration didn’t like him.”
Following the closing of the public comments, board member Mick Kahler stood up and handed his fellow board members a document. Kahler turned to the last page and read the final sentence.
“I no longer have a desire to be part of the Clear Creek Amana School Board.” Kahler tendered his resignation effective immediately, and he walked out of the room to applause from the crowd.
The meeting went into recess as Dr. Schares and others went to speak privately with Kahler. Meanwhile, the crowd moved outside the entrance to the school as board members read through Kahler’s manifesto with looks of shock on their faces.
Superintendent Schares and Kahler emerged after about 10 minutes, and Schares addressed the group outside.
She reminded the crowd that state law governs the administration’s and board’s actions, and going outside those laws could set the district up for litigation when dealing with personnel issues in a public forum. She also acknowledged the obvious frustration.
“We are aware of the concerns,” she said. Without going into specifics, Dr. Schares said there were a variety of instances which led to White’s decision, and while regrettable, “When people choose to move on, we tend to support them.” Dr. Schares also acknowledged it was a difficult transition for all,” and that, “there is a great deal of history involved.”
Tiffin resident Peggy Upton disagreed with Schares.
“This administration is unresponsive,” Upton said.
As Dr. Schares went back inside to resume the meeting, Kahler was greeted with more cheers and applause. Kahler said he would consider going back on the board, “if a certain member resigns.” Kahler declined to name the board member. He said the White situation was one issue among many over his time on the board. “I have no say. My hands are often tied in what I can talk about. Everything just stays the same,” he said. Kahler also said he felt the board is left out of the loop on many things done at the administrative level.
Kahler’s term would have ended next fall. Secretary Lori Robertson will now look into the process for filling his seat, either through appointment or special election.
White is the second varsity coach to leave the CCA district this year, as baseball coach Andrew Davis resigned shortly after the season’s conclusion. Replacements have not been named for either man at this time.