Residents speak out to support coach

By Patricia Ann Speelman -

BOTKINS — More than 70 Botkins residents attended the March meeting of the Botkins Local Schools Board of Education, Monday, to hear the board’s discussion about the school’s boys basketball program.

Superintendent Jeff McPheron told the Sidney Daily News that the discussion was on the meeting agenda at the request of three or four residents.

Nine adults addressed the board in support of Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Brett Meyer and his program before the board went into executive session to hear what several students had to say. All supplemental contracts, including those with coaches, are annually nonrenewed during the March board meeting. The employees that the school system wants to retain are rehired each year during the April meeting.

Botkins residents were reacting to rumors that Meyer might not be rehired.

The team’s 2016-2017 record was 8-15. Several people noted that “chasing wins” was not the most important job a high school coach has.

“Ultimately, the goal should be preparing kids to win at life,” said Ryan Gutman, a math teacher at the school.

“Speaking on behalf of the staff, we stand united in support of Brett Meyer,” said fifth-grade teacher Fred Schmerge. “We become coaches to help kids, not for the money or to chase wins. Meyer has a work ethic. He helps boys develop those traits. He not only teaches them, he models them.”

Ron Bergman noted that “there are a lot of issues here. The parents don’t support the coaches. I’ve seen kids look up at their parents (during a game). How can coaches coach if a kid isn’t even paying attention. I think kids need to respect the coaches more.”

“Our players have accepted that it’s OK to lose. Our community has accepted that it’s OK to lose. I’ve watched Brett. I run the scoreboard. The coach gives 150 percent,” said Sue Miller. “He’s frustrated, too. We have to find a way to make it better.” She proposed that school officials talk with Meyer and with Athletic Director Brad Bergman.

“Say, ‘This is where we want the program to go,’” she suggested.

“No one likes losing. A high school program should be about more than wins and losses. (Meyer) is trying to right the ship,” Gutman said.

Matt Flora said he and his wife, Tina, at first enrolled their children in the Botkins schools through the open enrollment opportunity, and later they moved into the village.

“We expect the school system to be a part of raising our children to be productive citizens,” he said. “I’m here to support Brett. The important things, Brett gets right.”

Brad Steinke voiced his anger that Meyer’s abilities seemed to be in question.

“Is he the best coach in the world? Probably not. Will (the best coaches) come here? No,” he said.

“Has he done anything to make you want to let him go?” asked Steve Woodruff? “Success is measured many different ways. Has he helped kids? I saw 10 of the 11 home games. I couldn’t be more proud of (the team). They never gave up.”

Dan Butcher admitted that he hadn’t been a Meyer fan until he had a son on the team.

“I saw what he did with kids,” Butcher said. He noted that early in the season he had advised parents to be spectators and to let the coaches coach.

Josh Meyer distributed statistical information to board members to help them “make an educated decision. We elected you to do a job,” he said. “I’ve done research in other sports. We don’t have the numbers. I don’t know why.”

Gutman noted that Brett Meyer is held in high esteem by other high school coaches across the state and by college coaches. He has been with the Botkins program for 14 years. Personal obligations prevented him from attending the meeting.

Board President Neil Boerger said no action on the matter would be taken following the exective session.

In other business, the board:

• Approved hiring Sarah Pennington and Jessical Nichols as substitute teachers and Anthony “Tony” Rampulla as a baseball volunteer.

• Voted to nonrenew all supplemental contracts for the 2016-2017 season.

• Accepted the tax rates of the budget commission.

• Approved participation in Ohio SchoolComp for the 2018 worker’s compensation group rating program at an enrollment fee of $200.

• Approved a lease agreement with the Botkins Community Club.

• Passed a resolution commending Swimming Coach Heather Thaman and student Joe Shuga for qualifying for district competition.

• Heard a report by Josh Meyer that a group of mostly Botkins-based investors hope to erect a spec building in the industrial park and are asking for a 15-year tax abatement; that the Botkins Athletic Boosters have raised $3,500 toward the cost of a $7,000-$8,000 batting cage for the varsity baseball diamond; and that the Boosters are planning an Aug. 11-12 wiffleball tournament as a fundraiser and asking the village council to approve the sale and consumption of alcohol during the event.

• Were updated on the continuing project to erect a structure to house the historic school bell that used to hang in a tower over a former Botkins School building.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.