School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey announced Monday night that a committee of two coaches would begin meeting regularly with a top school administrator to improve communications between the two groups.
Hickey and four top administrators held an open forum with about 70 coaches and principals at the Howard County School of Technology in an effort to soothe angry feelings over several recent incidents and misunderstandings that coaches feel have undermined their authority.
One point of concern stemmed from Hickey's decision last month in a case involving four students who were suspended from extra-curricular activities after being caught with alcohol on school grounds. The students, all starting Oakland Mills or Centennial soccer players, appealed their suspension, saying they had not been told such behavior could lead to their suspension from sports. Hickey agreed with that argument and canceled the suspensions.
Oakland Mills soccer coach Don Shea complained that his own team policy would have prohibited the players from returning all season, and that his authority was being undercut by Hickey's decision. But school officials said a team policy can not be tougher than penalties established by the school board.
Shea and soccer coach Bill Stara, of Centennial, also were upset when their principals informed them that the athletes also must be returned to their former status as starting players.
But Director of High Schools Daniel Jett and Associate Superintendent James R. McGowan, who met with the two coaches separately after the decision was made, said that the coaches did not have to start the players.
Jett and McGowan said it was simply poor communication that the coaches were told otherwise.
The liaison committee will be composed of Dave Greenberg of Mount Hebron and Gay Petrlik of Hammond, and will meet with McGowan as needed on any school board matters relating to athletics.
"The meeting Monday night was a major and positive step that needed to be taken, and the five administrators deserve credit for allowing the coaches to vent their feelings," Greenberg said. "They made it obvious they were willing to listen to us, and tried to resolve our concerns that coaches were having their coaching prerogatives usurped."
Also discussed at the meeting were two memos from Executive Director of Health, Safety and Physical Education Don Disney that had aroused the ire of some coaches.
The one memo limited team practices to a maximum of two hours. The other memo told coaches they must schedule practices on Columbus Day, a day that the Washington Area Girls Soccer Association (WAGS) conducts an important tournament attended by hundreds of college coaches.
State rules prohibit high school athletes from missing a game or practice in order to participate in another outside athletic event. The directive created a conflict for some coaches who planned not to schedule practices that day so their athletes could participate.
The coaches were told at Monday's meeting that neither communication from Disney was a directive and that they were merely guidelines.