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As Long as We Remember...

October 12, 2009

Reviewing Contentiousness

Blaine R. Young

[Editor’s Note! The author of the following commentary is the brother of Brad Young, the softball coach at Walkersville High, who, during the summer, was suspended, then reinstated. Blaine Young asked us to post this after a local newspaper rejected it. He assures us that nothing contained in this piece came from his brother Brad.]


For the most part the dust has settled and the situation involving my brother Brad and the Walkersville High School girls softball team has been brought to closure. But this case was so bizarre, and so emblematic of the degree to which the Frederick County Board of Education is out of touch with reality, that it merits one last commentary.


To recap, in case you missed all the local, state and even national press, my brother Brad has been the head coach of the Walkersville girls softball team for five years. At the end of the season, as has been the custom, Brad hosted a party at his home for the team and parents. He paid for the party.


One of the parents brought a cooler of beer. Brad did not furnish or consume any beer or any other alcohol beverage. The cooler with the beer was with a parent and away from any member of the team and supervised at all times. No student got anywhere near the beer cooler.


Nonetheless, a disgruntled parent filed a complaint against Brad and Brad’s assistant coach for having alcohol at the party. It has always seemed strange to me that the parent who filed the complaint attended the party, and never uttered a peep about the beer until the party was long over and everyone had gone home.


When the Walkersville High principal asked Brad about the party, Brad did what we all knew he would do. He told the truth. What was his reward? Six weeks of hell for him and his family, not to mention the girls on the team, their parents and the Walkersville community.


Not one parent at the party – other than the one who complained – was interviewed to see what happened, or if anyone was actually uncomfortable. The athletic director at the school, Brad’s supervisor, was never brought into the process to examine what Brad’s past history as a role model had been. In a short six weeks his character was trashed for no reason.


First, it took three weeks for the school system to reach a decision, and when they did they astoundingly fired him and suspended him for three years, not only from coaching, but also from advising any student in any Frederick County public school.


And what was their justification? They ruled that Brad’s home became school property by having the event there, and therefore he was guilty of bringing alcohol onto school property. They ruled this even though it was undisputed that Brad did not bring the beer cooler into the house, but that a parent of a student on the team supplied the beer, and that Brad did not drink.


As often happens in this world, when little people with a little bit of power make a stupid decision, reasonable people in the community get outraged. That happened here. Brad received overwhelming support, not only from the Walkersville High School community, but throughout Frederick County, the State of Maryland and the United States as a whole. You would not believe the number of emails he got from across the country from people expressing outrage at his treatment at the hands of a few small-minded people, apparently drunk on their power over others.


Brad then had one reasonable option available to him, and he took it. He appealed the ruling to the superintendent of schools, Linda Burgee. Brad met with her, and they discussed the facts of this case, which are largely not in dispute. After leaving Brad dangling for weeks, the superintendent finally comes out with her decision which is almost as incomprehensible as the original suspension.


Superintendent Burgee suspended Brad for half of the season, and ruled that he cannot even attend games to watch his daughter play during the suspension. And, to add insult to injury, the superintendent does not herself reinstate Brad as the softball coach. Instead, she says he can re-apply for the job he had done very successfully for five years as though he were a stranger applying for a new position with the school system.


Brad was not happy with this, as it seemed to imply that he had done something wrong. But, as always, Brad thought of the girls first, and he left the decision up to his team and their parents. They overwhelmingly implored him to accept the decision, rather than appealing the decision further or filing a lawsuit. Their reasoning being that a good coach for half a season was better than no coach at all. However, as any parent would, Brad asked the superintendent to reconsider her ruling that he could not even attend games to watch his daughter during the half season suspension.


And what did Superintendent Burgee do? She reduced it to a three game ban on watching his daughter play softball. What a joke!


The various decisions reached by Frederick County Public Schools and the superintendent are so incomprehensible it makes me wonder if we have any leadership whatsoever of the half a billion dollar enterprise that is charged with the duty of educating our children.


Of course, it may have just been that the Board of Education and the superintendent were so concerned in making sure she got her $8,000 bonus and her $32,000 vacation pay, that her overall compensation could be pushed near $300,000.00.


To date the superintendent and the board have not even gone back and reviewed the alcohol policy that lead to this problem, as far as I know. It is my understanding that many other year-end parties had the same thing happen that happened at Brad’s house and, yet, nothing has been done. Due to the lack of leadership that has happened in this situation, every other coach and school employee has been left hanging in the wind until someone is not happy with the coach and he or she is reported.


I also found it interesting that while all this was going on, the Board of Education started its “Board Chat” on its local cable channel. I hoped to hear some discussion of this contentious issue. But what do we get from board chat?


If you want to hear what’s for lunch in the elementary school system next week, or if want to know what to expect from a parent-teacher conference, tune in. But if you want some insight into how these people are mismanaging our money and the education of our children, you’ll have to read it in the paper or hear it on the radio.


When you do, I think you’ll agree that the leaders of our children’s education are sorely out of touch with this community and with reality. The bright spot is that next year four of them are up for re-election!


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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