Members of the William Chrisman High School girls basketball team continue to seek answers as to why their coach, Lindsay Thompson, was relieved from her coaching duties in April.
Chrisman basketball player Maggie Beem, along with two other teammates, attended Tuesday’s Independence Board of Education meeting to address the school board on the recent firing of their coach.
What they got in return was a two word response, according to Beem.
Beem said she spoke to the board in a closed session about their coach’s dismissal. The only response she said she received from the entire board was, "thank you."
Independence School District’s communications director Nancy Lewis said the Chrisman basketball players had to address the school board in a closed session as opposed to an open, public session because they wanted to discuss "hiring, firing and personnel matters."
So far no reason has been given by either the high school or the district on why Thompson cannot continue as Chrisman’s girls basketball coach.
We’re (Independence School District) happy with our selection (in reference to Thompson’s replacement, Scott Schaefer)," replied Lewis when asked why Thompson was relieved as coach, "and we’re moving forward." However, she added that Thompson can continue to teach at Chrisman.
"It’s a personnel decision and I can’t really comment on it, other than saying Coach Thompson has been relieved of her coaching duties," Chrisman activities director Dan Ogle has previously said.
In a speech that Beem said she gave to the school board during the closed session, she wrote that her teammates, as well as she herself, do not appreciate how they are being treated by the district in regard to their coach’s dismissal.
"In a meeting with Dr. (Brad) MacLaughlin on April 16, we were told that there was no way for our coach to be reinstated--absolutely no way," wrote Beem. "We were also told that no one had yet been hired and that there was an extensive amount of applicants lined up for the job. It was stated several times that the search for a new coach would take a fairly substantial amount of time."
"What happened, in spite of what we were told, was this: exactly one week later, on April 23, a meeting was held after school with our new coach, Mr. Scott Schaeffer [sic]," continued Beem in the speech.
She also wrote that she was not able to "truly listen" to the introduction of her new coach, Schaefer, who previously coached at Gardner Edgerton High School in Kansas last season.
"There was something else on my mind... What happened to all the other coaches lined up for the job? Surely not all of them could have been interviewed in just one week."
"I personally feel that somewhere within the mix of meetings, interviews and statements given or not given, we were not told the truth. If someone else had not already been hired, why was there no possible way for our coach to be reinstated?"
Later in the speech, Beem wrote that she and her teammates feel "manipulated."
"What was meant by the statement we were given regarding the reinstatement of our coach? Did it mean the district could not hire her back because someone else had already been hired?"
"We feel as if we contacted the district leaders, tried getting our voices heard, and were instead brushed off and treated as if we did not deserve to know what happened."
Another individual spoke to the school board on how coaching is more than just about winning.
"Leadership begets leadership," Silya Siniawski told the board during the open session. She was allowed to speak in the public portion of the board meeting because she did not directly reference Thompson, but she later admitted that her aim was to allude to the district’s decision on relieving Thompson as coach.
"There are victories for coaches on and off the court," she said. "It’s not always about displaying a banner during a winning season, but the lessons learned by the players."
She also cited the CHARACTERplus program the district adopted in 2008 that "emphasizes positive character traits in all areas of a student’s life," wrote the district’s website.
After addressing the board, she added it was "completely wrong" that Thompson is no longer coaching at Chrisman and that "she reached out to players who were in need of being reached out to."
"You have taken away that which makes us who we are: our leader, our coach, the head of the family, our mama bear," wrote Beem in her speech. "And if there is one thing that our mama bear taught us, it is that you don’t just lie down and quit because things don’t go your way. You don’t give up on something you are truly passionate about."
Although Beem wrote that her team is willing to play under another coach because they know it is not his fault, they plan to protest Thompson’s dismissal.
"We will keep fighting, and we will not lie down and quit, because that is what Lindsay Thompson has taught us to do."
Beem later said that a support rally will take place at McCoy Park in Independence this Saturday for their former coach. The event begins at 4 p.m.