Allen removed as coach
Published 9:44 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017
The athletic landscape of the county changed this summer as the school board for Charlotte County Public Schools decided on a 6-1 closed-session vote in July to not approve the coaching stipend of J.R. Allen, the Randolph-Henry High School (R-H) head varsity baseball coach and Central Middle School (CMS) head golf coach.
The decision reverberated strongly in the community as Allen had been a coach within Randolph-Henry’s highly-successful baseball program for 16 years — including the past five as head coach — and he also had served as the CMS golf coach for the past 7-8 years.
Shedding light on the process that unfolded in the July 11 school board meeting, Division Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard described the process by which all coaches in the school system come to hold their position each school year.
“All personnel deliberations for offering a contract or stipend by the school board are made in closed session which reflects the Code of Virginia requirements,” she said. “Therefore, the basis for not offering of a contract cannot be disclosed. School board members have the option, although not required, of disclosing their own personal reasons for not extending a contract, but they cannot report out of closed session and speak on behalf of the board as a collective nor release information regarding closed session discussions.”
Board members have been quite cautious about sharing any information on the record and have declined to say much about the decision not to bring Allen back as a coach.
JonPaul Berkley, who represents the Bacon/Saxe District on the school board, expressed disappointment in previous reporting that made the board’s action seem like a witch hunt.
“I don’t know Mr. Allen and nothing personal played into my decision whatsoever,” he said. “… As a board member, our hands are tied as to what we can say, and the sad part is, anybody can say anything they want to outside of that. The problem is, we can’t defend our actions because we can’t discuss how we came to that decision.”
Keysville District Representative and Board Vice Chairman R.B. “Jay” George said, “There really isn’t a whole lot you can say and do to defend yourself when something’s done in closed session, because you’ve got to respect the privacy of the individual that’s the focus of the story.”
Aspen/Phenix District Representative Kenny Redmond also noted that personnel matters are held in closed session, so the board is not at liberty to talk about them.
“The only thing I can tell you, I voted ‘no’ on the motion, and that was based on the information that I heard during the meeting,” he said. “… Each board member’s got to vote, and I guess we have to vote the way we feel, and that’s the way I voted.”
There have been vocal members in the community that have let their support or opposition to Coach Allen be known.
In his five years as head coach of the Randolph-Henry varsity baseball team, Allen led the Statesmen to an 88-30 record. They have won 20 games in three of the past five years.
Enjoying perennial success in the postseason, the Statesmen have won three conference championships, two James River District titles, made one final-four state appearance and four regional appearances under Allen.
He has accrued three conference Coach of the Year awards, and eight of the players he has coached have gone on to play at the college level. Three of those players are at NCAA Division I schools on scholarship.
Three of his players were selected to compete among the best high school players in the state at the Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Star game, and two of them were named MVP of the game.
Allen also declined to say much in reaction to the school board’s decision.
“I appreciate the support that I’ve been shown through the community, coaches from other localities who have called and contacted me, I just appreciate all that,” he said.
District Five Supervisor and Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Gary Walker, who is a former school board member and has coached youth baseball in the county for more than 40 years, said he trusts the school board, but the timing of its decision seems ill-advised.
“They waited until just a few weeks before school started to make this decision,” he said. “From my understanding, all the teaching positions were full, so to find another baseball coach, they’ve got to find somebody that just coaches baseball — not a teacher or an administrator or what have you.”
He noted that the timing limits the pool of candidates.
“And if this was an ongoing thing that they had been considering for some time, which is the inference they’re making now, than I, as an administrator or school board member, would like to think, ‘Hey, we’re probably going to make a decision that we’re going to have a different baseball coach next year,’ before I got rid of the one I have, I would have known that I had somebody better than him lined up,” Walker said.
Mike Adams has been named as the CMS golf coach, but Walker said that from all appearances and from what he is told by school board members and administrators, they do not have a candidate lined up for the position of R-H varsity baseball coach.
“No one has been brought to the board as a baseball coach yet,” Berkley said Friday. “No recommendation has been made to the board on a baseball coach as of yet to my knowledge.”
Walker said that “last year, at this time, the boys were on the field working out. For the last several years, they work out in the fall and then they work indoors in the winter getting ready for baseball season.”
In light of Allen’s significant success as a coach, Walker also questioned what the school board’s decision could signal to prospective future coaches.
Leonard indicated that the decision and the previous reporting of it had made an impact on other employees of Charlotte County Public Schools.
“I am concerned that I have been approached by many employees who have felt that their jobs may be in jeopardy because of the recent turn of events which include the reports of a few select community members reporting to the media that they played a part in our baseball coach not being approved for hire for another season,” she said. “This is so very hurtful to so many good people. Charlotte County Public Schools has wonderful employees and it is concerning to me that that these dedicated professionals are feeling that their jobs are in jeopardy.”
Walker noted that Leonard, Randolph-Henry Athletic Director Chris Holt and Randolph-Henry Principal Robbie Mason had all recommended Allen to return as coach.
“So those are the people that deal with him on a daily basis, and if he had some character flaw or personal issue that affected his job performance, you’d think they would know more about it than a school board member who only deals with him from the stands, so to speak,” he said.
Leonard said, “At the end of the day, I am responsible for the well being of the children that we serve in Charlotte County Schools, and I have to feel comfortable employing a candidate. I fully endorse every candidate that I bring before the school board.”
Walker repeated that school board members “certainly have a right to make their decision, and they’re all good people. I respect them all. From a board of supervisors’ position, I have supported the school system as much as anyone, but from a management standpoint, I would like to think I would have had somebody in mind that had agreed that if there was a change made they would be willing to come.”
As is listed on the Charlotte County Public Schools website, a special meeting of the school board was called for Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. The agenda included a planned closed session for the reasons of contract issues and personnel for discussions of coaching recommendations.
For the latest action from the meeting, visit www.TheCharlotteGazette.com.