During an impassioned Montesano School Board meeting Oct. 24, the board voted 4-1 to not renew the contract of Bulldogs girls basketball coach Julie Graves.
The decision came just weeks before the start of the new season.
School Board member Moraya Wilson was the dissenting vote.
At least 50 people attended the meeting, many of them voicing their support for Graves both as a coach and teacher. Nobody who attended last week’s meeting spoke out publicly against Graves.
Most of the people who spoke out had the same question: Why?
Members of the board and district Superintendent Dan Winter were adamant that they would not comment on personnel decisions.
“We can’t discuss personnel,” board member Doug Streeter said. “You can ask the question, it’s just not something we can answer.”
“Even if we wanted to answer, we can’t answer,” board president Kelly Vance said. “It’s a personnel issue.”
“Who is accountable? Is there no process?” one Graves supporter said.
“Well there is a process,” Winter said, “it seems to have been skipped.”
In a meeting Monday with The Vidette and athletic director Tim Trimble, Winter wasn’t too willing to elaborate on the decision.
“We made a decision that was best for the students,” Winter said.
When pressed on what steps of the process were missed, Winter said, “Well, I’m not going to comment on that. That’s not going to do anyone any good to keep stirring this up. I think that the situation certainly could have been handled better on both sides. We’ll leave it at that.”
He did confirm that Graves will retain her position as a coach on the junior high track and field team.
Winter was then asked why it’s in the best interest of students to remove Graves as basketball coach but not track?
“There’s no connection between the two sports. It was an issue with her position as the head basketball coach. This is not a character assassination toward her, but the decision had to be made in the best interest of the kids,” he said.
“You have to understand, it’s a whole different sport, it’s a different situation.”
Reporter: But it’s the same coach?
Winter: “Yeah. But it’s a totally different situation.”
Reporter: Can you tell me how?
Winter: “It’s a different sport, at a different level.”
Reporter: I don’t see why it’s different.
Winter: “Well that’s all I’m going to tell you.”
“It’s a really tough decision. But the climate of the program had to change,” athletic director Trimble said.
During Thursday’s meeting, Graves stated she believed the district did not uphold its end of the contract it has with her to coach basketball.
“I didn’t have an evaluation done at the end of last year. I’ve been the head coach for 15 years and I know what it looks like. I did not have an evaluation done last year. It did not take place. I coached this summer with that understanding that I was coaching this season,” she said. “Steps were not followed. When you reread our athletic contract, which is not really the strongest contract, but that’s what it says in there and (an evaluation) did not happen.”
When asked about the review, both Winter and Trimble said there were a series of meetings that they understood to be an evaluation of Graves’ position as coach.
“There was a meeting that took place after her season that, in Tim’s mind, served as her evaluation. She may feel differently about that. But there was an evaluation meeting that took place,” Winter said.
Trimble added, “I don’t know what would be the expectation of an evaluation meeting: This is the plan, this is where we’re going, this is our expectations.” Several meetings, actually, now, did I write any of those down or make it a formal evaluation … .”
He said later that all the communication was verbal.
Graves said that in the past, she has always had a paper evaluation and she did not know the meetings were to be considered her evaluation.
“I was unaware that the meetings were my evaluation. In the past, my (coaching and teaching) evaluations were done on paper and we have signed off on an evaluation,” she said Tuesday.
Winter was then asked what impression the district was trying to give her at those meetings?
“I think the gist of it, from last spring to the fall, was that there were things that needed to be improved upon,” he said. “She was fully aware of what the issues were.”
When asked if Graves was told that the district was going in a different direction after last season, both administrators said no.
And parents and past players still are asking why.
The district already has posted the position. An announcement of who the coach will be is expected this week, Winter said.