BKW students deserve better

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School board and Interim Superintendent Lonnie Palmer.

I would like to begin with my disappointment with the decision not to reinstate Coach Andy Wright to the varsity boys’ basketball position despite overwhelming public support for him.

As I write this letter, Andy is making plans to coach at Middleburgh High School. although I will always be loyal to the maroon and gold, a small piece of me will now root for the green and white. Good luck, coach Wright. Their gain will be our loss.

The Oct. 31 edition of The Enterprise contained a concerning response from Mr. Palmer and the board that needs to be addressed. This letter called comments at the end of the meeting by community members an act that “bordered on bullying.”

What you, in fact, had were people who had spent a great deal of time and effort to defend a cause they believe in. They only became frustrated when their efforts were not even acknowledged by the board or Mr. Palmer. There were never any personal threats, just demands to be heard and promises to speak their voice at the ballot box.

The Hilltowns have a long history of defending what is right and working together to help their own. The Anti-Rent wars of the 1800s are great evidence of this spirit still alive in the Helderbergs.

The board and Mr. Palmer went on to say that :our students deserve better: and I can’t agree more. Instead of spending time on more pressing issues in education, such as Common Core or a long expired teachers’ contract, the board has wasted countless hours trying to remove a dedicated coach and our students have suffered.

Each member of the current boys’ basketball team has pledged their faith in Coach Wright. Is that not enough?

If we truly believe that “our students deserve better,” why not listen to them and move on? This is one teachable moment on democracy that the board missed.

The collateral damage from this decision is widespread. Coach Wright and Coach [Brian] McCoy have spent the last 10 years building a program that was well respected and competitive. They are now both gone.

Less skilled players previously kept in the program will now be cut by outside coaches who simply want to win and have little knowledge of our kids and our town. More talented players may transfer as frustration grows with the uncertainty of who will be coach each and every year.

Coach Ted Pangman said it best at the Oct. 21 board meeting when he used the Middleburgh example from 15 years ago. He was a long-time junior-varsity coach who had dedicated himself to the district only to be replaced by an outside candidate due to school-board agendas. This outside candidate turned into a carousel of coaches who drove the once proud program into the ground. Ironically Middleburgh is now only becoming competitive again due to the efforts of Ted and how his brother Tim!

This situation is more than just about coaching and basketball. It is about people and the way that they are being treated in our district. I have been involved in BKW athletics since 1986 as an athlete, coach, and athletic director, yet my opinion was never sought on this or many other issues involving athletics at the board level.

Instead, I was cursed at, called a bully and told this was my fault as a poor leader. The handling of this not only sets a dangerous precedent for coaches but bus drivers, secretaries, mechanics, custodians, teacher’s aids, teachers, and administrators. I would hope that Mr. Palmer and the board use this as a valuable lesson when considering mover like this in the future.

As a BKW employee, I am blessed to work with all kinds of dedicated people, people who are more than just employees and dollar signs, people who give their heart and soul to our district and all they want in return is a thank you.

The idea that we “want to move in a different direction” is no way to treat people. I encourage the board and Mr. Palmer to remember this the next time they make such a wide-reaching decision.

Tom Gavin

Teacher and Coach

Berne-Knox-Westerlo HS



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