Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Miles City Unified Board of Trustees was a bit more crowded than usual, as parents and students alike turned out to address concerns with Custer County District High School’s boys’ basketball program.
Thirty-eight members of the community, in a total of 14 separate groups - including 17 students affiliated with the boys’ basketball program - were given the opportunity to address the board and Coach Houston Finn.
In an interview, Superintendent Keith Campbell said the process was handled with civility and respect, with every person who desired having their say. The proceeding was closed for privacy concerns.
“There were parents who requested to be on the agenda to voice concerns about the basketball program,” Campbell said. “To their credit, the people who asked to be on the agenda had gone through the proper channels and procedures. Winter coach’s evaluations and hiring is on the May agenda, so the board felt now was the time to hear their concerns. It’s better to hear from them, and any questions the board might have so that it can become part of the evaluation process.”
At issue for the parents expressing concern was if the program was heading in a positive direction, as well as Finn’s coaching style. Though the feedback from those who spoke was predominantly positive in nature for Finn, Campbell said all concerns are taken seriously.
“There were concerns that were voiced by individuals, and those are concerns that we want to address and look into,” he said. “We appreciate the fact we are being made aware of them. We don’t want any of our programs creating an environment in which kids don’t want to participate. The parents were concerned about what we can do to prevent that. We want kids to go out, we want them to participate, we don’t want them to feel like they are limited in any way from participation if they chose to do that.”
Campbell said Finn addressed the issues as they were presented, and answered questions as they were posed. Though he wishes some of the questions had been raised earlier in the year, Campbell said he was glad parents took the opportunity to express their concerns and hopes it continues going forward.
“The relationship between a parent and a coach is one that needs to be ongoing throughout the year,” he said. “If your son plays for me, I want to develop a trusting relationship where you can talk to me about concerns, and I can address things I see in practice to you. I think Coach Finn described his willingness to have that type of relationship, and to learn about issues as they happen.”
Campbell went on to say the board did not feel compelled to take any action, nor did any parent demand an immediate resolution. At no time did the meeting become contentious or disrespectful, and Campbell said he appreciated the fact that concerns could be expressed without developing into an ugly situation.
“Anytime someone has a concern, you want to look into it,” he said. “You want to give it the credibility it deserves. You want to talk to the coach about it, you want to talk to the Activities Director about it, and that’s kind of where we’re at with this. We’re giving the system a chance to work.”
Campbell said his dealings with Finn have been positive, with Finn more than willing to listen to constructive feedback.
“I haven’t heard anything that would lead me to believe he’s not open to constructive criticism,” Campbell said. “It’s always a concern when a coach is unable to do that, because as a coach, you’re going to get it - you can’t be a coach and not get that. And Houston has enough experience that he understands that. As a superintendent, I don’t have any hesitation, in my opinion, to hiring Coach Finn for next year. But ultimately that will be a board decision.”
Under staffing, new hires ratified in the Elementary School District include Paula Kiosse- School Psychologist; Becky Lane-Substitute Teacher; Micah Kirkpatrick-Substitute Teacher; Christine Hart-Substitute Teacher; Laura Jane Willson- Substitute Teacher; Kristi Hinrichs-Substitute Teacher; Samantha Steinke- Substitute Teacher; Ray Mace- Substitute Teacher.
Resignations/Terminations in the Elementary district include Vaughna Anderson Frye- WMS Math teacher- Retiring; Connie Taylor-Title I teacher Garfield-Retiring; Paula Collins- WMS Assistant Volleyball Coach; Pearl Hamano-Speech/Language Pathologist –Retiring; Heather Nelson- 4th Grade Garfield Elementary; Kara Mader-Reading Teacher Lincoln Elementary-Retiring; Mark Nielsen-Head Custodian Garfield School; Greg Waldie- Activity Bus Driver; Jean Stewart- Special Ed Teacher WMS.
New hires ratified – High School District: Paula Kiosse- School Psychologist; Maranda Alto-Substitute Teacher; Brad Eik- Assistant CCDHS track coach; Laura Jane Willson- Substitute Teacher; Ray Mace- Substitute Teacher .
Resignations/Terminations – High School District: Chad Collins- CCDHS Assistant Boys’ Basketball Coach; Pearl Hamano-Speech/Language Pathologist-Retiring; Martha Larson-Spanish/English Teacher CCDHS-resigned; Jamie Ogolin- High School Principal; Greg Waldie-Activity Bus Driver.