Community members, educators, parents and student-athletes showed up at Wednesday’s Roseburg Public Schools board meeting to demand answers from the school board regarding the non-renewal of varsity volleyball head coach Daniel Haskett’s contract. They also shared their disagreements with Superintendent Gerry Washburn’s decision-making.
“I’m overwhelmed with all the support,” Haskett said after the board meeting. “I’m here to fight for my job. I’m here to do what I was born to do, coach Roseburg volleyball.”
Roseburg Public Schools released a statement on Jan. 25 that Washburn made a recommendation that Haskett not be offered a contract as the head volleyball coach for the 2018-19 school year. This recommendation came after an internal investigation and an independent investigation into allegations of bullying by Haskett and assistant volleyball coach Kari Morrow.
The Jan. 25 statement also made note that Haskett continues to have the support of Roseburg High School Principal Jill Weber and Athletic Director Russ Bolin. Bolin was at the meeting, but did not address the board during the public participation session. Weber was not in attendance.
Prior to the board meeting, on Feb. 17, Charles Lee, the board chair, released a statement that read, “It does not make sense for us to second guess a judgment-call the superintendent makes regarding athletics. Holding a board meeting on the question of reinstating or renewing Coach Haskett, overriding the judgment of the superintendent, would be an example of such second guessing.”
Lee decided not to place the reinstatement of Haskett on the agenda, but 15 people addressed the school board during public participation and more than 50 people showed up to listen — many in support of the coach.
Breez Hansen was the only volleyball player to speak up during public participation; many others who remained on the team this season made their feelings known through letters addressed to the superintendent and the school board earlier this month.
“Last time we turned in our letters and you said you’d do what was in the best interest of the kids — we are those kids,” Hansen said. “This coach is an amazing person and she told us from the beginning of the season that she is here to create strong, independent women and we are strong, independent women saying that this coach is at no fault.”
Roseburg Public Schools administrators have remained silent on whether Haskett was guilty of bullying. Haskett claims she was absolved of any wrongdoing by both investigations.
“People who wrote letters asserted that there should be no change of leadership because there had been no violation of policy,” Lee wrote in his statement prior to the board meeting. “That misses the point, which is that the superintendent determined that the best interest of the school called for a change in leadership; he did not determine that there had been misconduct or a violation of policy.”
Some parents were concerned with the way the investigation was handled and the lack of explanation from administrators regarding the decision making process.
Tim Swanson, a parent of a volleyball player, said, “Why were the stakeholders, the roughly 29 returning players — not including the freshman team— why were they not addressed. Why were they not allowed to voice their concerns.”
Fred Sabins, an assistant wrestling coach and parent, added that it’s the job of parents to teach kids life skills and raise them to be good citizens, but when someone is not rehired with no explanation, its hard for adults to explain why that happened.
“We have a lot of explaining to do to these kids,” Sabins said.
Kyle Dever, a Roseburg High School teacher and assistant football coach, was concerned about the precedent being set by the superintendent.
“I’m involved with roughly 180 students and there’s no way all my students are going to be happy,” Dever said. “How do I protect myself against a student who has some pull who can hire a lawyer?”
Rachel Jackson, an English teacher, said the superintendent has created a climate of distrust.
Several parents said that the decision would cause trouble for the school district and the community as a whole.
“It’s important for employees to trust their leader. For us to develop trust we need honesty, transparency, competent decision making and establishing credibility. The decision making demonstrated by Dr. Washburn lately has eroded that trust and credibility of his leadership,” parent Kristen Sandfort said. “I think it’s going to impact our ability to retain and attract coaches and teachers and volunteers.”
Roseburg’s junior varsity coach Mandie Pritchard, who shared a gym with Haskett for the past five years and who is the parent of a volleyball player, said she has been to every varsity game and on the bus to and from games and raised the question whether Haskett was treated unfairly because she’s a woman.
Pritchard said, “I was wondering if the volleyball coach, or any coach, if they were male, if they would have been told the reason for non-renewal were to protect him from public scrutiny and press and if he would have been told he was emotional.”
Roseburg teacher and head track and field coach, Gwen Bartlett, let the public know that 33 coaches met privately with Washburn to ask questions regarding the vague reasoning of “need for new leadership” that was used to justify the decision to non renew Danielle’s contract.
Bartlett, who will start coaching Monday, also noted that Roseburg does have a code of conduct and coaching policy, called the Interscholastic Handbook of Athletics. This is a 45-page document, last revised in 2011, that includes a code of ethics and head coaching rules.
In Lee’s statement, he wrote that the district does not have a policy describing the district’s expectations regarding coaching and athletics.
Board member Dan Endicott said during his report to the school board that he would “like to see every meeting with this many people here” and that the board is “listening to what you’re saying.”
Lee and Washburn declined to comment on the public participation.