It was not the
audience typically seen on a meeting night of the Duneland School Board.
Often the seats are
filled with parents and families of students giving a presentation, or
principals, teachers and department heads, but Monday’s meeting attracted a
different audience. In the back stood a line of Lady Trojan soccer players
All were quiet
throughout the brief, uneventful meeting until after the gavel fell and the
happened?” someone shouted.
heated as members of the audience grilled the board on why there was no
opportunity given for them to speak.
The board’s agenda
typically does not list public comment as an item.
said they were supporters of David Galloway, CHS girls soccer coach from
2010 to this past school year, and whose contract was not renewed last week
for the upcoming season.
Earlier in the
meeting, the board in their consent agenda approved 4-0 the latest personnel
report that appointed Jason Conway to move into Galloway’s position as head
coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer team.
visibly upset some, who beseeched the board to open the meeting back up.
Ralph Ayres advised that there is a policy in place that if someone from the
public has an issue they would like to present to the board, that person
needs to notify the superintendent’s office prior the meeting.
The agenda template
states in bold, “In order for a member of the public to have an item of
business considered for placement on the Board agenda, that person shall
contact the superintendent of schools to discuss the item at least seven
working days prior to the next scheduled meeting of the Board.”
Ayres, who as
president sets the agenda, told the audience he was not contacted regarding
the soccer coach issue. No one else from the board said whether or not they
had been contacted.
board is not to address personnel matters before the public, Ayres said.
Those can only be discussed in closed executive sessions, he said.
But that didn’t
calm the audience members who felt they had the right to be heard.
“What did you think
we were all here for?” said Terri Kopil of Illinois, Galloway’s sister.
“We’re asking you to hear about someone we care deeply about. These girls
are here because they care about their coach.”
A few parents in
the audience cited Galloway’s reputation as a coach, such as last year’s
championship victory in the Duneland Athletic Conference.
One mom said her
daughter is going to play soccer while in college, attributing that to
like John Hufnagal, who said he is a friend of Galloway’s and girls soccer
coach at Kankakee Valley High School, asked specifically where in the
meeting did the board approve the coaching change.
that the board hears the recommendations of the school administrators who
present the items in the consent agenda, which the board votes on and is
usually the first action of the meeting.
“where is the debate” in the process. He said he believes what he has to
tell the board could be important in their decision making. “There are
people here who deeply care about this issue. We got completely glossed over
because we didn’t understand what a consent agenda is?”
Others in the
audience said that school board meetings elsewhere like “Cedar Lake and
Merrillville” give the public time to speak at their meetings.
the decision to replace Galloway as “toxic self-interest” and “biased” on
the part of school administrators. He called for the board to “conduct an
investigation” into the matter and said there have been issues going on
since last fall. He said the board has the power to take something hidden
and bring it to light.
One audience member
told the board not hearing the other side out “creates the perception that
there is something to hide.”
in the audience, admonished the board for “not giving anyone an opportunity
to speak about this.”
Vice-President Kristin Kroeger, who holds the Jackson Township seat on the
board, echoed Ayres’ comments about the board’s restriction from discussing
personnel matters publicly. “We have to follow the law,” she said.
As board members
were trying to move into an executive session following the meeting, member
Ron Stone, who is the board’s Liberty Township representative, said he would
be willing to stay and hear attendees’ concerns, although the board had
already made its decision.
“I think they
should be heard,” Stone said, garnering a round of applause from the
Ayres said he had
“no problems” personally in hearing comments but it could not be with three
or more board members in the room. He and Stone sat with the Galloway
supporters after the meeting, while Kroeger and member Mike Trout exited.
Board member John
Marshall was absent from the meeting.
Trout told the
Chesterton Tribune that in his years on the board, he’s never seen such
a tense reaction to how the board conducts its business. He thought
initially seeing soccer uniforms and shirts that maybe those in attendance
were there to support Conway as the new coach.
As to whether
something should be done about putting public comment back on the agenda,
Trout said he thinks it’s “something for the board to consider.”
Since Galloway is
not a teacher, his contract as a coach must be applied for each year, said
Trout. Coaching appointments are made in large part by the principal and the
schools’ athletic director, he added, and the decision was not a hasty one.
“A lot of time went
into this,” said Trout. “We have a new soccer coach. That was the
recommendation from the administration and we acted on it, so let’s move
that the preference among school officials is that a coach be someone who is
a teacher in the school district.
Conway is a
fourth-grade teacher at Liberty Elementary and coached Girls JV soccer last
Trout said people
should not let their emotions take control of them and that it should be
realized that schools everywhere will hire a new coach for various reasons,
even when the current coach has a commendable record.
“It happens all the
time,” he said.