Two weeks after Platteville Public Schools’ decision to end coach Jim Lawinger’s career at Platteville High School, that decision is no more popular than it was when it became public knowledge at the end of July.
I reach that conclusion from last week’s School Board meeting, this week’s Letters, and the Facebook page of your favorite weekly newspaper the past two weeks. (Read the stories at www.swnews4u.com/section/3/article/27860/ and www.swnews4u.com/section/119/article/27935/.)
As often happens when the subject of athletics comes up in a less-than-positive light, it is interesting to note how infrequently people go to Platteville School Board meetings to complain about academic issues. (For one thing, PPS is the area’s highest ranking school district according to the state school report cards and numerous other measures.) Nor do people even comment about property taxes.
All you need as evidence as to the importance of athletics is to go to Friday’s football game against Darlington at UW–Platteville and see how many people spend a Friday night cheering on the Hillmen. (Or, next month, the River Valley–Platteville volleyball match, or a basketball game this winter.) If people vote with their feet and show up, it’s important. And if as many people comment publicly, online and in the pages of this newspaper, as have to this point about Lawinger’s dismissal, those people think it’s important too.
PPS administration has made no public statements about this, other than to basically say it can’t make public statements because it’s a personnel issue. All we know is what Lawinger said in an email to players’ families, along with secondhand statements such as those made at the Aug. 10 School Board meeting, which may or may not be completely accurate.
PPS administration did make one thing more clear last week — what Lawinger termed, and speakers Aug. 10 referred to as, “the Platteville philosophy.” (Which you can read at www.swnews4u.com/section/119/article/27936/.) Reading between the lines two phrases stand out:
• From the Interscholastic Athletics policy (passed in 1987 and 2001): “Sports competition should provide a healthful, enjoyable experience whereby the emotional, mental, social and physical development of young men and women can be fully achieved. Sportsmanship should always be of prime importance.”
• From the Staff Ethics policy (passed in 2012): “… shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.”
Regardless of the specific reasons for Lawinger’s dismissal that we Platteville Public Schools parents and taxpayers are not being told, those two policies are the standard that PPS coaches must meet, however PPS administration interprets those policies.
One question that has come to mind over the past year is the extent to which some parents have more influence than they should in athletics. I don’t think coaches object to parents’ asking them why their child isn’t playing to the extent the child and/or parent thinks the child should play, when asked in the right setting. (Which is not immediately before or after a sporting event.) The problem comes when parents start making arguments as to why their child should play instead of another child. In such an instance the student–athletes don’t learn much about the team being more important than the individual athlete, or accepting your own role within the team.
As with former volleyball coach Yvette Updike’s departure last year, the School Board apparently won’t be voting on Lawinger’s dismissal. (At least as of now; the board will not be voting at the annual meeting Monday night, which is intended for the 2015–16 school district budget and property tax levy.) The School Board votes on hirings, resignations and transfers, including of coaches (who are not contracted employees, at least for the coaching portion of their job), but excusing a coach from further coaching is termed an administrative decision with no School Board vote. I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of human resources law, but that seems illogical to me.
It is certainly true that the public doesn’t know everything that has gone on that has led to the recent coach dismissals. But the large turnout (compared to the number of people who usually show up) of people all apparently opposed to Lawinger’s dismissal as coach, and the public reaction elsewhere, suggests at a minimum public disapproval of that decision. The last time that happened, what followed (for that and apparently other reasons) was an eight-way School Board race.