Fired coach draws a big crowd

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

SULTAN — They want their basketball coach back.

That’s what a group of about 50 students, parents and supporters of Jamie Rowe told the Sultan School Board Monday night.

"This community is confused," said supporter Jeff Cohen. "No one knows why he’s been asked to step down. Many of us want to see him returned to his coaching job."

Supporters filled the commons of the Sultan Middle School, speaking one by one for about 45 minutes, asking again that the school board reconsider the action taken against head high school basketball coach Rowe.

But the Sultan School District board didn’t promise anything.

Parents and students had previously asked the board to re-hire Rowe as coach, but this time they came in mass and with Rowe present.

Coach James "Jamie" Rowe was told about a month ago that his contract to coach the varsity boy’s basketball team would not be renewed for the 2001-2002 school year.

Rowe, who has been coach for three years, said he wasn’t given any specifics. He is a physical education teacher at Sultan Middle School and has been promised that he can keep his teaching position.

Local parent, Vern Nelson, said he had seen Rowe’s coaching evaluation and didn’t think it contained "anything worth being fired for."

In fact, Rowe met with parents and showed them his most recent evaluation, to reinforce that the dismissal was without reason.

Rowe was dismissed from coaching by athletic director Nicki Luper and by Superintendent Al Robinson.

He appealed to the board last month, but the board upheld the ruling.

Nelson was critical of the district’s athletic director, who didn’t attend the meeting Monday.

"She should be here to answer questions," he said.

Rick Rudd, a former head football coach at Sultan High, said he can relate to what happened to Rowe because it had happened to him last year.

"This district has a reputation as a coach killer," Rudd said. "There is no process to deal with a coach that may have a problem."

Others said the district is getting a reputation for not hiring or keeping local people who have gone to school in Sultan and who come back after college to teach or coach in Sultan.

Rowe’s father, C.H. Rowe, who is mayor in Sultan, asked the board for answers. Jamie Rowe previously said his dismissal may be tied to the political climate.

His father is the subject of a recall petition that is pending before the Washington State Supreme Court and is a controversial figure in town.

"Whether this was done for political or personal reasons, the kids are the one’s who are being hurt," the senior Rowe said. "My son could have a better paying job tomorrow in my business. But he wants to teach and coach. He loves what he does and he is dedicated. The kids like him. The parents like him."

Jamie Rowe said the only apparent faults were three technical fouls in games during the season, and words he had with other coaches about the scheduling practices.

Because Rowe is not represented by a union, his only recourse is to keep appealing to the board.

He said he wants to coach in Sultan and that he has re-applied for the coaching position.

Parent Debra Powers told the board that her son who played ball for Rowe has been affected by the dismissal. She said the board’s reluctance to take another look at this "sheds a dark picture on the board."

School board president Craig Roesler said personnel matters are not discussed by the board .

"It is illegal and unethical and the board will not comment," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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