The New Richmond district office conference room was packed with community members who came out to support high school girls basketball coach Ryan Schradle, who started the open forum portion of the board's Monday, May 21 regular meeting by speaking about the process by which he was informed he would not coach next fall.
"My hope of being here tonight is to, at the very least, that the school board recognizes that some policies need to be addressed and maintained. At most, I hope the school board recognizes everything that I've done for the New Richmond basketball program in the last nine years that I've lived in this community and give me the honor of continuing to lead the New Richmond girls basketball program," Schradle said.
According to Schradle, he and Activities Director Casey Eckardt met on April 4 to talk about the girls basketball season. During the meeting, the pair talked about areas of the program, including wanting to see improvement going forward. Leaving the meeting, Schradle and Eckardt were in agreement that Schradle would be coaching the team next year, Schradle said.
"Over the course of the last month, I have been involved in a process that I feel is flawed and not a good representation of all the great things that our district does for our students," Schradle said. "I've been told that I am no longer wanted as the head coach for the New Richmond girls basketball program. This has come as a shock to me, my coaching staff and many others that are involved in basketball in New Richmond. It comes as a shock to me because at no time during the last nine years was I ever told that I wasn't doing a good job."
However, on April 19, Schradle said he got an email from NRHS Principal Tom Wissink asking to meet, which led Schradle to contact Eckardt to see what the meeting was about. Eckardt informed Schradle that Wissink was going to tell him that he would not be the coach next year and that, although Eckardt didn't agree with Wissink's decision, he was being overruled.
"At no time during the last four years as a head coach, except for my end of the season meeting with Mr. Eckardt this year, had improvement even been discussed with the administration," Schradle said. "At no time have concerns been shared with me by administration about how girls basketball was progressing. At no time did an administrator other than Mr. Eckardt ever discuss with me things that I could be doing better."
On April 20, Schradle said he met with Wissink, who told him that he wasn't going to be the girls basketball coach next year and explained his reasons. After discussing the reasons behind not extending Schradle's coaching contract for next year, Wissink said that he would think about his decision over the weekend and get back to Schradle when he had made his final decision.
"I try and instill our core values into the players that play for me ... our focus isn't just how we can improve our students on the court, but how they can lead in the classroom, in the community and at home," Schradle said. "I will not let my legacy as a coach be defined by my win/loss record of my program. I can't tell you what kind of season we have had until about 10 years down the road when I see the types of employees, community members, spouses and parents my players have become ... I coach for a lifetime, not for a season."
According to Schradle, Wissink emailed him on April 25 to say that he would be sticking with his original decision to not hire him back as the girls basketball coach. Schradle said he spoke with Eckardt again, who reiterated that he didn't agree with the decision and that he had shared his feelings with Wissink. On April 26, Schradle said he met with District Administrator Patrick Olson, who told him that it was Wissink's recommendation and that it was now the school board's decision.
The school board went into closed session at the end of their meeting to discuss "non-extension of extra-curricular contract," but did not make any motions when they came back to open session.
Olson gave a short presentation on the renewed push for a sports stadium/complex at the high school.
"This is something that has been worked on for a number of years and a lot of this is based on this moving in this direction," said Olson. "This stems from our strategic planning. The stadium has been something that has been outlined in our strategic planning with pillar two - facilities. It is something that is in need on many levels, especially when you look at the winter we had this year."
According to Olson, the campaign is still in the early stages, with a brochure to inform the community about the project still in draft form. The district has initial renditions of what the facility could look like, but they are only first drafts and can change depending on how the campaign unfolds.
According to the sample brochure, the stadium would have 1,500 seats, an artificial turf field, team locker rooms, and a concession/ticket area. The district is looking to use some fund balance money for the project since it's over the amount the board policy dictates should be kept in the fund balance, Olson said. The district is looking to front roughly $500,000-$700,000 to get the process started, with the total budget in the ballpark of $3 million to complete the project.
Once the district fronts the initial funds to start the process, according to Olson, the funding of the project will be turned over to a capital campaign.
"We've had some very interested and passionate people who are looking to lead this," Olson said.
The district has taken the first step in the project by updating the lighting at the high school field last year. Olson said the next step in the process would be to add the artificial turf to the field to allow more teams to use the field year round. According to Olson, ATS&R will be working with the district as consultants. The campaign will ramp up this summer.