Sunday, May 4, 2003

Mike's Call

The basses in the church choir all seemed to have an opinion about the Randolph issue. One fellow commented on the Kersten letter in last Friday's Tribune. It was one of the few to run counter to the adulatory letters on Mike's behalf. It didn't pull any punches. My friend said it was a good letter until it ended with a cheap shot at Dave Spehar, the storied East hockey player of a few years ago. He said the shot canceled everything else out. Another bass told me that it was obvious that Knapp had it out for Randolph. He also told me that she had been rash. But then he told me that all the area hockey teams were full of undisciplined party guys. He added that all the local administrators turned a blind eye to their hockey programs. 

Just after I got home and sat down to a breakfast of scrambled eggs Mike Randolph called. He apologized for interrupting my Sunday and talked to me for about forty-five minutes. I begged his pardon in turn for eating my eggs before they cooled while I listened. I took some random notes on the Sunday paper. 

Mike mentioned a half dozen concerns from Bob Mars's Marshall connections to Laurie Knapp's son being cut. He stressed that his Activity Director, Mike Miernicki, had been kept in the dark by Knapp until an hour before he was given his marching papers. He told me that he'd do whatever it took to change the hockey program; reform the wreath sale, play Marshall. I tried to be sympathetic I told him that his former Stowe principal had written me a glowing letter about Mike which was very critical of his current treatment. I didn't, however, make any promises about putting his non-renewal on the agenda of the next school board meeting.

Late Sunday I got a voice mail from the Superintendent telling Board members that Mike had been calling all the members. It was at least one Board member's feeling that Mike was taking notes on his conversations with us for legal purposes. The Superintendent has warned me before that Mike's legal strategy is to open the personnel file on his hockey coaching and turn his non-renewal into a case of defamation. Of course, Mike's allies simply view this as an issue of fairness - face one's accusers and all that. Its hard to explain to them that the contract frees us from this problem unless we break it by doing what Mike wants us to. Evidently, coaches all around the state have begun lobbying to change their contracts by law so that they can only be removed by "just cause." Many of them feel that they are vulnerable to the complaints of politically powerful parents.

I don't think there is any doubt that politically powerful parents are unhappy with Mike. On the other hand, as i shared with Julio when he first called me a week ago I hadn't heard any complaints. Furthermore, its pretty obvious to me that the influence of parents who are unhappy with Mike's coaching is dwarfed by the power of Mike's supporters.

One of my friends who is a hockey parent told me that he thought the real issue is that the East program has become a big time Division One College/Professional Hockey training and recruiting ground. He dislikes the grueling hours that players are forced to travel around the state to play against other big time teams. He may very well be right but, as I told him, that's an issue that the High School League or the State Legislature would have to remedy not the Duluth School Board.

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