RED WING -- Jesse Nelson will officially take a year leave of absence from the Red Wing varsity girls basketball team after the school board voted 6-1 during the Oct. 21 meeting.
The board had the motion as part of the consent agenda until Director Jim Bryant voted to discuss it further. He said that he has “concerns and questions” about the information surrounding the absence request.
“I have not looked for and have not found any documentation from the school to support the action that we’re asked to approve,” Bryant said.
Going further, Bryant said any rumors that are being discussed are just that and that he doesn’t put any faith in those ideas, only facts.
“The board should not be making decisions without having all of the written information in front of us before the board issue was decided,” Bryant said. “Since the school did not provide the information, I did my best to find out what I (could). So I asked Jesse directly. He stated that a letter was not his idea. He stated that if he didn’t sign it, he would be terminated.”
Bryant warned they may be setting a “terrible precedent,” saying the board should only consider workplace issues, not personal ones.
After Bryant’s speech, applause from a small group of people in the City Hall council chambers broke out.
According to Superintendent Karsten Anderson, Nelson had put in a leave of absence from the team. However, Nelson isn’t leaving his roles as head coach of the cross-country and track teams. Principal George Nemanich, Activities Director Paul Hartmann, and Anderson also offered the position of seventh grade girls basketball coach which Nelson accepted.
Nelson coached the Wingers to a 24-3 record and Big 9 Conference title last season and was recently named the Big 9 Cross Country Coach of the Year for this season.
Nelson has coached the girls team since 2016.
Board members showed their support for the administration. Director Janie Farrar said she wishes she didn’t have to comment on the situation, but felt she should.
“I feel like it’s been a very thorough process that our (activities director), principal and superintendent have spent a lot of time on,” Farrar said. “It might not be something I want or other people want, but again, I feel very strongly that it’s a very thorough process.”
Vice-chair Pam Roe said the decision is best for the team and the district as a whole. Roe added that no one is calling into question Nelson’s ability to coach.
“This is not an attack,” Roe said “This is not about revenge. This is not about having it in for somebody. This is absolutely none of that.”
The board voted 6-1 on two motions. The first, accepting Nelson’s leave of absence. The second, accepting the winter coaches for the upcoming season. Bryant voted against both motions.
Decisions on personnel related to hiring, resignations, transfers, retirements and leaves of absences are routinely voted on by the School Board.
Anderson said after the meeting the administration was trying to get into a routine of approving coaches prior to each season. The board hadn’t been doing so, but Anderson said it’s best practice for every school district.
Anderson wouldn’t comment on why Nelson requested a leave of absence saying, “We don’t divulge or try to guess as far as reasons why people put in for leaves of absence or resign or retire anything like that.”
After the meeting, Bryant said he hadn’t reached out to Anderson, Hartmann or Nemanich since he found out the decision was being made on Oct. 21.
Bryant he believes all boards should have the information they need in front of them before making any decision.
At this point, Bryant said everyone he’s spoken to would like to see Nelson resume his position as head coach of the girls basketball team.
Assistant coach Peter Johnson will serve as interim head coach for the upcoming season.