Monday, May 5, 2003

Two Principals and a Threat

Dear Hockey Saga Diary,

Email and phone calls are still coming in. A lot of local hockey coaches have been lobbying for Mike. I got a call from a local businessman who has contributed to some of my previous campaigns. I agreed to meet with him and one of Randolph's assistant coaches on Wednesday. I wonder if he's read my column in the Reader

I started the day still pretty divided. I sympathize with the idea of being fair to Mike. On the other hand I don't like the idea of being jerked around by people who are only interested in keeping East High School "on the map" with the hockey team. Apparently without hockey East would lose  its luster. 

Its not just the principles that are divided. So are the principals.

I got a glowing letter on Saturday from one of my favorite principals, Larry Johnson, who retired a couple years ago from Stowe school. For the past five years we've worked the regional spelling bee together. I always joke that as a principal he loves being able to correct a school board member, me, when I misprounounce a word.

Larry talked about how devoted Mike was to his Stowe kids and how it ate Mike up to tell kids on his hockey team that he'd had to cut them. Larry was extremely critical of the non renewal process and of the School Administration. Mike had talked to Larry within the week and some of what Larry said struck me as "spin." Still, it was a heartfelt letter.

On the other hand another principal accosted me last week and told me to stick with the decision. This principal had once been at East and told me how arrogant and high handed the hockey program was. It was time to reign them in.

I've been reading "Sound off" in the sport's section for the last week. Its the letter-to-the-editor feature for sports only. I hardly ever read it because of my general disinterest in sports but its been full of Mike Randolph lately. These letter writers have been intent on building up a head of steam for Mike or conversely cooling it off.

Largely for this reason I've discovered an even better forum on Randolph. Its an Internet bull session for Hockey fans who are only talking to each other not to the general public. (be prepared for a wait of a minute or two for this page to load from this link) I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of the posts in it but since the Administration won't tell me why they made their decision this forum has given me some insight into the East High School Hockey program. I spent an hour this morning following it's thread on Duluth East Hockey. 

The first posts express incredulity and indignation over the decision. Later posts allow doubts to creep in. Many of the writers, who are all anonymous, seem to be ex East Hockey players. Some seem to know each other or have deduced who others are by the information they provide the forum. 

One particularly long and telling post is from a fellow who claims to have been one of Randolph's former players and an admirer. He tells about his younger brother who was also on the Randolph team and on the cusp of being cut. The writer said that he took Randolph's side over his brothers until he secretly followed his brother out of the house at midnight to see what he was up to. When he found his brother in tears at the hockey rink shooting pucks in the net he came to regret having taken Randolph's side over his brother. A lot of the people on the message board who read it were affected by the story.

As I went through my email in the early evening I opened one from Mike's attorney which non-plussed me. First, I've never received a legal message in as an email before. It seems like a pretty casual way to do business. Second, although it started out deferentially, it concluded with an implied threat to anyone who might be defaming Mr. Randolph, including School Board members: "However, he does not waive any legal claims he may have against individuals who may have defamed Mike or his family.  As far as we know, no one from the Board is guilty of any such behavior." 

Those fellows on the hockey forum better be careful what they say. If the School Board keeps the file closed and stick to the law we won't have to worry much about this legal threat. 

Mike called an hour later to tell me he had made the decision to surrender his right of privacy. I thanked him for the information and told him I'd already gotten the email from his lawyer telling me this. 

To heck with the Hockey forum. I just hope I haven't written anything on these web pages which will get me hauled into court!

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