Parents at North Lincoln High School who have been pushing for a more competitive football program took center stage during the public comments portion of Wednesdayâ€™s Lincoln County School Board meeting, but their actual aims and goals remained unclear.
Although North Lincoln High School is the countyâ€™s top-performing school academically and excels competitively in several sports, with recent state championships in golf and cross-country, its football program has struggled to win games in recent seasons.
Despite Board Chairman Ed Hatleyâ€™s assertion that parents couldnâ€™t be allowed to discuss individual school personnel, speakers left little doubt that their concerns were with the performance and qualifications of Zachary Bevilacqua, who took over the position on an interim basis in mid-summer.
Chuck Shank, describing himself as a person who loves Friday night football and believes the most valuable memories of high school come from football, called for a â€œproven leaderâ€ as head coach.
Drawing a parallel to military, Shank said a team without a proven general can have a lot of talent have a lot of men who donâ€™t come home. â€œYou canâ€™t take inexperience to train inexperience,â€ he said.
Shank said he thought the schools ought to turn to sports boosters for input on open coaching positions.
On the other hand, Michael Kovalchak criticized recent reports in the Denver-based News@Norman, which he called a â€œhatchet job,â€ for misrepresenting what the parents are up to.
â€œThat group of parents, myself included, are here to support schools,â€ he said. He said the parents who have gotten together to share concerns about the football program have begun engaging in greater dialogue with teachers.
He said they did discuss open vacancies of personnel and disagreed with those who thought parents had no right to discuss such things. He expressed hope that the school would pick the best person to take the permanent head coaching position.
During the same meeting, the board took the opportunity to honor the North Lincoln cross-country team on their recent state championship.
Different speakers cast that feat in a different light.
Camille Marshall told the board that this only made football players sad that they werenâ€™t part of a winning team. She expressed concern about the effects of so many losses on the students. Echoing some of Shankâ€™s concerns, she also expressed interest in a closer look at the quality of the football program at North Lincoln Middle School, which feeds into the high school.
She called for greater transparency in the way schools choose coaches, along with a genuine effort to educate parents about the challenges the schools face. Marshall also suggested parents and boosters could play a greater role in helping the school with the financial challenges of building a winning football program.
But Mark Ewing offered a starkly different take on North Lincolnâ€™s accomplishments as he addressed the board. He listed off the schoolâ€™s many accomplishments in academics, band, sports other than football and various other extracurricular activities.
He defended the school from top to bottom as â€œfirst class.â€
Board members took no action and made no comment on the statements from the various speakers.