Concern grows over NL school board’s hiring process for boys’ basketball coach
By MEGAN COOPER
Mt. Pleasant News
NEW LONDON — Several concerned residents of New London questioned the integrity of the New London school board and administration during Monday night’s regular school board meeting.
“I signed up today to ask some questions I had previously asked, attempting to follow the chain of command,” said Laurie McBeth, concerning the issue about the boys’ basketball head coaching position that was discussed at the May meeting. “Those questions were not answered or even acknowledged.”
Laurie McBeth is the wife of Mike McBeth who was interested in the head basketball coach position that was open at New London, but, according to him, he was never given the chance to get the position.
“Ever since I came forward questioning the superintendent’s (Steve McAllister) practices in hiring a boys’ basketball coach for our school and the kids,” said Mike McBeth during public forum. “I have somehow seemingly become the ‘bad guy’ in the eyes of some of the very people in this room. I am not the one who did anything wrong or unethical here.
“Let me remind everyone that I am not the one that seemingly had behind the scene talks about not renewing Coach Watson’s contract. I have not said one negative thing about Coach Porter during this process. I’m just the one who went to your athletic director shortly after the basketball season with my own concerns about the program and made it known that if there would be any changes, that I would like to be considered for the job myself,” explained McBeth.
The position was not originally opened to the public. The administration had decided to shift positions around in-house, which would make Bryant Porter the new head coach, Austin Burns a co-coach and Curt Watson a co-coach. Then, after the May meeting, the position was opened to the public after the hiring of the three was put on hold by the school board. Once again, issues arose with this process.
“In what I assume was a placation attempt, the job was opened to the public and applications were taken. How many people applied? How many were interviewed? How many reference and background checks were conducted?” asked Laurie McBeth. “My guess is zero. My guess is this was done just so you say you did it – that you projected a picture of fairness and concern for the best interests of the kids, that in reality, was never there in the first place.
“Yet somehow, the recommendation is for the hiring of a coach with two years of JV coaching experience over an applicant with 27 years of coaching experience, who came highly recommended by people who are held in high esteem in their own communities and in the basketball community. Nothing suspicious there,” said Laurie McBeth.
Mike McBeth applied for the position of head coach, but was never called for an interview or even acknowledged that he had applied. Mike McBeth, who has 27 years of coaching experience, coached youth, junior high, JV, assistant varsity and head varsity coaching in both boys’ and girls’ sports. He has also been in involved in multiple conference, district and regional championships and had a part in a team appearing in the state tournament.
According to Mike McBeth, he has also helped to develop successful programs from the ground-level up, been in charge of or part of running youth as well as high school camps and has reference letters from a former small college all-American player and successful high school coach and more.
“If you were to hire that person, then you have the right one,” said Mike McBeth. “Because that’s all I’ve got.”
Another resident who has ties to Mike McBeth expressed another concern stemming from the issue that began in the May meeting about the position.
“Also, as an addendum, since the last meeting it was decided by someone, I don’t know who, that I would no longer be announcing the activities at athletic events,” said Barbara Carmon. “I have done that for as far back as I can remember. No one told me that I was or that I was not. I have been approached by several adult fans and many of the ball players as to why I was not doing it this year.
“My answer to them is, ‘I don’t know.’ I never told anyone that I did not want to do it. It was like everything else going on here – back door,” said Carmon.
According to Laurie McBeth, the decision the board was considering Monday night was fraught with downright dishonesty.
“A complete and total lack of ethics, a total disregard of what you are supposed to be concerned with – and that is the best interests of our kids and of our school,” said Laurie McBeth. “The only people whose best interests are being considered are your own and that of the administration. This decision you are considering approving tonight also has the unmistakable scent of nepotism and cronyism.”
Mike McBeth finished with, “If you choose to believe the most qualified candidate is getting this job, then so be it. If you choose not to give me a chance because I am not a ‘yes man’ or because I confronted the almighty Mr. McAllister, then great because that is not me. But this a job to develop a program and a team that the school, community and the kids can be proud of every time they step on the court. So don’t tell me I’m not the most qualified to do so.
“After living through this and all of Mr. McAllister’s actions, I will highly recommend that families looking to relocate look six to 10 miles any direction from here to avoid this type of leadership and questionable practice.”
According to McAllister, what the administration did with the head basketball coach position was within its rights and the policies of the school district.
“There was never a position that was open,” explained McAllister. “After talking with our attorney, he told me this analogy. If you think of positions at the district as chess pieces on the board; the administration and the board has the authority to move those pieces around, transfers, they can move them. How you move them around the board is often determined by your agreements and how specific contracts are written.
“You do not have an opening until one of those pieces has been removed from the board. It was recommended to move them around. The reason for the change, our attorney said, for citizen coaching positions, he sees it many different ways across the state, some have it stated on the contract, it says head coach. It states specifically what it is, head coach, assistant coach etc. The contract is between the employee and the board of education. So the board can authorize the transfer,” McAllister said.
“All this means is that there was no open position to begin with for the position of head basketball coach; it was simply moving positions around, which can be legally done without opening the position to the public.
“If you don’t approve the position,” said McAllister. “Then we would move to hire the outside candidate that was qualified and who had applied for it.”
After further discussion, the board approved the hiring of Bryant Porter as the head coach for the boys’ basketball team and Austin Burns as co-coach. Curt Watson, who was on the agenda to be approved as co-coach for the basketball team, was not approved or unapproved, the motion died for a lack of response.
More from the New London School Board meeting will be in tomorrow’s edition of The News.