Who is to Blame?

This past fall the Athletic Director (AD) at Four Winds Community School resigned after he admitted to illegal tampering of a student's records.  His supporters, and he has many, were outraged, not at him, but at us, the school board and administration, for accepting his resignation (I'm the president of the school board).  Their constant harassment forced us to go to the tribal council for guidance.  At the meeting with the council, many of the AD's supporters showed up and did a very good job of intimidating the faint of heart.  At this meeting, I passed out my response (below) to one of the AD's supporters who kept insisting Rick was not to blame.  Read my response and judge for yourself if the AD should be rehired and allowed to work with student athletes again.



I read your email to me in which you expressed your concerns about our school.  You have been a long-time employee at the school, and you have a Master's in Educational Administration; therefore, I am assuming that you know any grievance you may have against a fellow employee must be filed by following the grievance process laid out in the employee handbook. 


By deciding not to utilize the grievance process in relaying your concerns to me, I am taking the contents of your email as your opinions rather than an official complaint. 


Your opinions appear to originate from your concern over Rick Smith's resignation.  Apparently, you believe that other people should be held accountable for Rick's unethical behavior.  Here is a statement that Rick wrote last year which he read on the radio, and please note Rick takes full responsibility for his incompetence.


I sincerely apologize to the school boards, the administration, staff, and students for causing great stress, humility, and displeasure.  I take full responsibility for my actions.  The oversight on the rules infraction and any other type of eligibility of our student/athletes lies solely on my shoulders.  This is a part of the Athletic Director's duties and I am the Athletic Director at the Four Winds Community School.  The Four Winds Community School has put their trust in me as their employee and I have let them down.  (Written Statement by Rick Smith to the Spirit Lake Community, March 17, 2009)


You also express concern that the board allowed the business manager to attend a national conference.  When I was elected to the school board six years ago, the school's finances were in shambles.  The business manager worked very hard, had to make some tough decisions, and now our finances are in the best shape they have ever been.  The board is not remiss if we decide to send an excellent employee to a conference.


In my six years on the board not once has anyone, including you, complained about the business manager attending the NSBA conference.  In addition, with your Master's degree in Educational Administration, I find it curious that you would request that I blame Rick's unethical behavior on someone else.  Your education would suggest that you would know better.  This peculiar request leads me to ask several questions of my own:


Are you aware that Rick had promised to write a letter to the North Dakota High School Athletic Association taking full responsibility for his actions to help us get our post season back?  He was going to ask them to not punish our boys for his failures.  Apparently, he changed his mind.  I strongly believe had Rick followed through with his promise to write a letter to the NDHSAA they would have voted to allow our boys to play in post season.  In my opinion, he deliberately abandoned our boys' basketball players in retaliation for us (the board) not letting him to continue on as coach after he resigned.  Not only did Rick's unethical action cause our sports teams to be barred from competing in post-season play, but he abandoned them when they needed him most. 


Are you part of that group that wants us to lower our academic standards so that our students can play sports?  If this is true, do you know what you are asking?  My goodness, do you realize how many people have come to me over the past six years and gave me heck because our students are not prepared academically?  And now you want us to lower our academic standards?  Why should we risk the future of all our students just so a few can play basketball?  A couple of years ago an angry parent approached me.  She said she wanted to ask Rick to look after her boy.  She went on to say that Rick let him get away with everything when he was in school just so he could play basketball and now he cannot fend for himself.  It's Rick's fault he is that way, she said.


The problems with Rick are not new.  When I was voted in six years ago, one of the first big problems we had was with the way Rick did his job.  We had at least three meetings in which people screamed and yelled at each other because Rick did not do his job in an ethical manner.


In regards to your statement, "Remember, these people, along with myself, voted you into office and all of them want something to be done."  Here is my response: The majority of people who voted for me wanted me to promote academics.  Over the past six years, the board and administration have worked very hard to accomplish that.  This is what my voters want, and this is what I will continue to do.


John, I have known and worked with you for many years.  I know you to be a good, decent person, but I have to admit, I am puzzled by your blind loyalty to the former Athletic Director and your persistence in placing Rick's mistakes on other administrators. 


This leads to two final questions: Do you and whatever group of people you represent hope to have our current administration fired whereby you can become principal and hire back Rick Smith as coach and Athletic Director? Is this why you are constantly disparaging our administration?


The bottom line is this: Not one of the individuals you mentioned in your email was involved in the illegal tampering of a student's record, which led to Rick's voluntary resignation.  Rick and Rick alone did that.  And this violation of the trust placed in him is what resulted in our boys' basketball post-season play being denied.


It is time for you and your small group of people to accept that Rick is no longer the AD, that his resignation was voluntary and final, and let it go and move on.  We--the school board, the administration, and community members--have moved on. 


cc: Board members 


Dr. Erich Longie, President
Spirit Lake Consulting. Inc.
PO Box 663
314 Circle Drive
Fort Totten, ND 58335

Fax # (701)766-4401
Cell #
(701) 351-2175 wk


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Erich Longie published on April 23, 2010 4:41 PM.

Promoting Cultural Diversity was the previous entry in this blog.

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