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Posted on Wed, Apr. 21, 2004
Former Duluth East hockey coach Mike Randolph wraps his arm around Denny Davis (left) as he leaves the Duluth School Board meeting Tuesday night after being reinstated as Duluth East's boys hockey coach for the 2004-05 season. The board voted 5-2 to reinstate Randolph.
Justin Hayworth/News Tribune
Former Duluth East hockey coach Mike Randolph wraps his arm around Denny Davis (left) as he leaves the Duluth School Board meeting Tuesday night after being reinstated as Duluth East's boys hockey coach for the 2004-05 season. The board voted 5-2 to reinstate Randolph.

Board reinstates Randolph


DULUTH SCHOOLS: The former East High School hockey coach will get his job back.



NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

The Duluth School Board voted 5-2 to reinstate former East High School boys hockey coach Mike Randolph on Tuesday night.

Board members Mike Akervik, Mary Cameron, Tim Grover, Tom Hustad and Ann Wasson voted in favor of the measure, and board members Laura Condon and Dorothy Neumann voted against it. The move came after 90 minutes of closed-session discussion among board members.

"This is not about hockey," Randolph said in an address to his supporters in the halls of the Central Administration Building after the vote. "They wronged me, and I wanted to make sure that this never happens again."

Citing privacy laws, district administrators have not publicly stated why Randolph wasn't reappointed for the 2003-04 school year. Randolph said he was told it was because of complaints from parents, questions about fund raising and a desire to take the program in a different direction.

An internal audit released in May found that an annual Christmas wreath sale that benefited the East hockey program was mismanaged. In December, the Minnesota state auditor released a review that confirmed the district's findings. Fund-raiser organizers, including assistant coach Terry Johnson, deny intentional wrongdoing.

Duluth school district administrators reiterated citations of policy Tuesday that extracurricular assignments are renewed on an annual basis and can not be renewed with no cause, as is the policy across Minnesota school districts.

The move to reinstate Randolph and assistant coaches Larry Trachsel and Johnson for the 2004-05 hockey season was brought forward this month by board members Cameron, Grover and Hustad.

They said district policies and procedures, such as annual performance reviews and the use of an athletic grievance process to deal with complaints, were not followed.

"I've always looked at this as a fairness issue," Hustad said.

More than 125 people attended Tuesday night's meeting.

"It is in the best interest of students of East High School and East High School that Mike Randolph not be reinstated," East principal Laurie Knapp told board members before the vote.

She beseeched board members to trust and support the administration by standing by the April 2003 nonrenewal of Randolph's coaching assignment. Superintendent Julio Almanza and district human resources director Rob McLachlan repeated Tuesday night that they stand by that decision.

The board's interest and action with an individual employee and position is unusual, but chairwoman Cameron said that board members were exerting one of their most important roles as elected officials.

"If we don't make sure administration is following policies and procedures, who will?" she said.

The revival of the reinstatement effort came after November 2003 School Board elections that changed the board's makeup.

Before those elections, a June 17 reinstatement effort failed 7-2. The makeup of the School Board changed after the November 2003 elections when the board was trimmed from nine members to seven, with three new members -- Grover, Hustad and Wasson.

Those board members bristled and defended themselves from insinuations by other board members and community members that their election was related to Randolph's reinstatement.

"I owe no favors to no one," said Hustad, who worked with Randolph's wife before he retired from dental practice.

"I hope that now, finally, the School Board can move on to bigger issues," said current East hockey coach Todd Wentworth, who has said he won't seek other coaching positions in the district.