Coach debate: Board, public voice concern
MANISTIQUE – Coaches for varsity basketball and JV football have been selected for the 2012-13 season – but not without some controversy. The selections were approved during Monday’s meeting of the Manistique Area Schools’ Board of Education.
Cody Kangas, sole applicant and recommendation of Athletic Director Rob Ryan, was approved for the JV football coaching position. The motion passed with two “no” votes, four “yes” votes and one board member abstaining.
The vote was made after an initial board decision to table the matter until after the position was posted again. Giannine Perigo, board vice president, first suggested the district seek more applicants.
“It’s my understanding, I think, that there was only one application for this position,” she explained. “I don’t even know the young Mr. Kangas, I’m sure he’s a fine person, I just wish there was some competition for it. I would personally like to see the job reposted and see what happens.”
Board member Amy Kraatz countered, noting that Kangas was well-known within the football program, making him the right candidate for the position.
“My son’s in the football program right now,” she said. “And I know that Cody’s been working hard in the summer program, weightlifting, and he also helped out with the football camp that they had. My son thinks that he’s a good coach and his friends think that he is a really good coach, and I think that he’s got the experience with being the assistant coach last year as well as the playing experience – high school and college.”
A motion to table the decision to hire Kangas and repost the position passed, with board members Tim Zellner and Kraatz being the only “no” votes. Shortly after the motion, public comment period erupted with questions about the board’s decision, as well as their effectiveness.
“(I’m) very concerned, disappointed, about the decision with the JV football coach job,” said Ryan. “Over the course of 12 years, I’ve followed the exact procedure that is to be done when we have coaching vacancies … I just think you’re setting a dangerous precedent and I don’t understand why we post a position, I fill the position, I talk to the varsity coach about it, I talk to the superintendent, I talk to the principal, made the recommendation, and now … I’ve never seen this before; I don’t understand.”
According to Ryan, the board’s decision would have the potential to set the football program back, as the season is approximately seven weeks away.
“I actually think it’s late, I wanted to have this person on board by April or May,” he said. “I hear all the time that our sports teams aren’t good enough, there’s not enough enthusiasm, there’s not enough spirit, we need to do better, we’re not in the conference … We expect year-round activity by our student athletes, and yet we can’t appoint coaches six weeks before the season?”
Superintendent Kathy McDonough pointed out that the last JV football coach had resigned at the end of the season, noting that there had been plenty of time to post the position. Ryan explained that he had waited to post all coaching vacancies together.
Butch Yurk, retiring district principal, voiced his concerns over the board’s decision.
“This is my last board meeting, and I didn’t want to go out burning my bridges, and I’m trying not too … I have to say that you’ve made a grave mistake by not doing this,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know it’s the Kangas name that’s being shot down here, and whether Mr. (Todd) Kangas is football, basketball, track – which he is – and then another Kangas comes around, it’s too bad. Nobody else applied for that job ... we as administrators recommend, that’s our job to recommend, and you should take our recommendations serious.”
Yurk explained that Cody Kangas would be just as good as his father, pointing out administrators had considered this, and so should the board.
“We have put time, sweat, energy, and everything into what we do, and then to have you say, ‘no’ to what we do and recommend – it’s wrong. It is wrong … it’s stuff like this that has driven me out early,” he said. “I’m glad that we have some new board members, but I was certainly hoping for some fresh air as far as what you want to vote on … that’s what’s happened in the last couple of years is I’ve seen people standing on other people’s feet and taking only their recommendation.
I think before you adjourn, you might want to reconsider putting it back on the table and re-voting for that man, rather than postponing the season,” he continued. “We’re always to the point where we’re delaying something … and all it does is show the public that you can’t make a decision. Make a decision.”
McDonough explained the board was merely exercising their right to consider all options, adding she had already discussed concerns over nepotism (according to the Encarta Dictionary, favoritism shown by somebody in power to relatives and friends, especially in appointing them to good positions).
“I’m not taking it personally … but, it’s a nepotism,” she said. “All I asked the board was just weigh all your options. I did my background-checking, too, on this. Yes, the board can ask for a second posting and should when you only receive one candidate.”
Todd Kangas disagreed with McDonough, noting the board should have trusted the administration’s opinions.
“I don’t feel it as nepotism when it’s posted and it’s fair game for anybody,” he said. “I’ll be glad if you repost it; I don’t care – he’ll put his application in again and chips will fall where they may. He’s qualified, but I’m not going to end up fighting a battle for him. He’ll do a great job, I know that, Mr. Ryan knows that, I’m sure you guys are going to know that, but he’ll do a good job because he’s qualified. He won’t do a good job just because he’s my son or his last name is Kangas.”
After a comment from Perigo that nepotism also involved relatives being evaluated by each other, Ryan explained that there were times in which the varsity coach would be asked for input about the JV coach. “We all know how this town operates,” McDonough added. “And the perception will be … that this is nepotism.”
Kraatz suggested that the board reconsider the tabled motion to select Cody Kangas as JV football coach. The board voted unanimously to do so.
“There isn’t anybody sitting up here who isn’t trying their hardest to do a good job,” board member Rae Birr said. “And what happens in public discussion, and I don’t know, necessarily, how to solve this, is you guys get up, kind of impassioned about something, and give us a whole bunch of information that we didn’t have before we got here.”
Ryan agreed that he could provide more information in the next recommendation.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that this is a fine person (Cody Kangas),” said Perigo. “I guess, when you sit at this table, you vote the way you see fit to vote … I do not regret my vote, and I do not regret my question.”
For the motion to select Cody Kangas as coach, the board voted: Zellner, “yes”; Birr, “no”; Joan Brown, “no”; Kraatz, “yes”; Ginger Stark, “yes”; Gail Wood, “yes”. Perigo abstained from voting, and the motion passed.
In another vote, Todd Kangas was approved for the varsity basketball coaching position, with Stark being the sole “no” vote on the motion.
“Nothing personal, but I just wonder if the public knows that when we have these meetings, we are not just a rubber stamp type board, we really think about these things,” she said. “Just philosophically, I somehow think, if, whenever it’s possible, that we have more diversity. So that our two major sports aren’t led by the same person. It’s nothing personal, it just seems like we could offer more diversity if we tapped different skills and so forth.”