The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 18, 2013

Parents, student athletes show support for two coaches

DIAMOND, Mo. — About 40 parents and student athletes on Wednesday night voiced their support to the Diamond Board of Education for two educators whose coaching assignments they say have been unfairly taken away.

Most of the meeting was held behind closed doors.

Some of the participants spoke to reporters outside the meeting. Parent Donna White said Brian Brimacombe, the high school girls basketball and softball coach, and Brent Jordan, high school and middle school cross country coach and high school boys track coach, were not retained in their coaching assignments for next year.

Her son, Janzen White, is a 16-year-old sophomore who runs cross country and on the track team. He said he went to state in cross country last year with Jordan, finishing in the top 50 of 300 runners.

“I don’t find it’s right,” Janzen White said. “They have no reason to release him. He’s one of the best coaches.”

Brimacombe, contacted by phone on Thursday, said he was informed on April 4 that he wouldn’t be retained as a coach. He has coached in Diamond for 10 years and said the action took him by surprise. He said, however, that the board has the authority to make whatever decision it wants regarding coaching positions. He said he plans to continue with the district in his teaching duties.

He said he has been touched by the support shown by members of his teams and their parents.

“I’m very thankful and very honored that the parents and my players showed that kind of respect, that they cared that much,” Brimacombe said. “It was very heartfelt, and I thank them very much.”

Jordan said Thursday by email that he “was pleasantly surprised. I knew there were some parents who were going to attend the board meeting on our behalf, but I had no idea that many supporters would be able to rally together in such a short amount of time.

“I’ve made Diamond schools my home for nine years. I don’t really know what the next chapter will look like for me professionally, but I have a counseling contract for next year and I plan on honoring that commitment — and I’ll continue to do so with a kid-first approach as I have always tried to do.”

Kandie Eads, who described herself as an organizer of the parents and students, said she is a supporter of Brimacombe, who coached her daughter, and Jordan.

“They didn’t talk with him about any inadequacies, and everyone was caught by surprise,” Eads said about Brimacombe. “They haven’t given us any reasons.”

She said that after being coached by Brimacombe, her daughter played college softball, finishing her college softball career at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University.

Initially, board members allowed some individual parents, and possibly others, inside the closed meeting, one at a time. After that, the board allowed all parents and students inside what they said remained a closed-door meeting, keeping only reporters outside.

Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said the board’s action didn’t violate the state Sunshine Law, but it violated its spirit. She said the matter was litigated in the 1990s, and the court ruled that a board may allow anyone and exclude anyone from a closed-door meeting.

“The purpose of a closed meeting is to allow a board to confidentially discuss an issue with an individual,” Maneke said. “You lose the confidentiality when you broaden it to include more people. They have no obligation to keep the information confidential. The more people you bring in, the more likely it won’t remain confidential.”

Eads said she received no indication from board members that they were inclined to reverse their decision.

Sheila Littlefield, parent of a cross country athlete and an elementary teacher, said it seemed that the board members were listening to the parents. She said it didn’t make sense to not renew the positions of two good coaches when most of the other coaching positions already were open.

Job openings listed on the Diamond School District website included 13 coaching vacancies. Those included the sports coached by Brimacombe and Jordan.

When the board returned to open session, the meeting already had been adjourned. It wasn’t announced if there had been any vote.

Board President Jill Rentfro and Superintendent Trish Wilson declined to comment on the group’s requests.

Open session

GREGORY BRICKER, executive vice president of George K. Baum & Co., of Kansas City, reported to the board in open session about plans to sell the bonds from the school district’s $3 million bond issue, approved by voters on April 2.

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