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School board hears public support for accused coaches

A crowd of more than 70 people packed the Brookings-Harbor school board meeting Wednesday, many to speak in support of two high school coaches accused of bullying student athletes.

The effort was an orchestrated campaign by parents and students who felt that girl’s basketball coach Chris Schofield and former assistant coach Daryn Farmer had been unjustly accused.

The charges stem from a June school board meeting, when a group of about 20 parents and current and former students told the board of their concerns about the two men’s coaching style.

The parents and students recounted examples of how one of the coaches verbally intimidated and insulted specific athletes.

At Wednesday’s meeting, 13 people discounted the other group’s claims, and some urged the school board to ignore complaints of bullying against the coaches.

Following the June meeting, the school district turned over written complaints about the coaches to its insurance agency, PACE, to investigate. During that time, Farmer resigned. At its September meeting, the school board and district superintendent Brian Hodge announced that the investigation was not going forward and the board would not be taking any action.

“The investigation is not going forward but we have not received any written acknowledgement that it is closed,” Hodge said in a phone interview following the meeting. 

Jamie Ryan, chairwoman of the school board, confirmed this.

“We are not going any further with it at this point,” Ryan said. “Nothing had changed (from last month’s meeting). That’s why we didn’t say anything about it following the public comments.”

Unsatisfied with the results, the parents who filed the initial complaints took their case to the state’s Office of Civil Rights, which confirmed that it was investigating the matter. 

Crystal Greene, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education, said the state has completed a preliminary investigation and a letter was to be sent to the school district, but had been delayed because of the federal government shutdown. Greene said a civil rights specialist is conducting the investigation.

Upper Chetco School bid accepted

In other business, the school board accepted a $165,000 bid by Casey McLennan for the 5-acre property containing buildings onced used as Upper Chetco School. The property is located about six miles up the North Bank Chetco River Road.

Under the agreement, McLennan will pay the district $10,000 and monthly interest payments for up to a year until he secured a loan to purchase the property. The property has no water rights and McLennan will need to drill a well before a bank would loan the rest of the money for the property. If money for the full amount of the property is not paid in one year, control of the site will revert to the district.

Policies approved, contracts approved

The board approved numerous policies, but not one that would have given the board the option to decide before a meeting whether to allow public comment, and to limit public comment to three minutes if there were a large number of public comments.  

The board approved all special duty contracts; however several board members mentioned that there did not seem to be much consistency on when and who signed the contracts before they came to the board for approval. 

The board approved an extra duty contract for Alan Chirinian for for the BHHS robotics program, Mark Townsend as BHHS assistant football coach, Dan O’Brien as Azalea Middle School assistant football coach, Buell Gonzales as BHHS boys basketball coach.

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