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RV Board responds to complaints aired at K-P

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Angela Edwards, a River Valley employee and parent of five children in that district, attended the latest Kingsley-Pierson School Board meeting. She wasn’t happy about comments made by community members and K-P coaching staff to the River Valley School Board at their March meeting.

 “I’m very passionate about sports,” she said. “I have five kids that I plan on having play sports, and as a River Valley graduate, I would like for them to be Wolverines. But, ultimately, I want my kids to be able to play. I want them to play for coaches that want to coach them, that want to coach all kids and to be part of that.” She added her disappointment about hearing two of Kingsley-Pierson’s head coaches speak out about not wanting to be with River Valley, calling it “disheartening.” 

The statements made at the K-P school meeting are leading her to consider having her children play sports elsewhere, which is something she feels other parents must be thinking, too. Edwards also noted that she has safety concerns about students traveling to K-P for sports on back roads, which could be treacherous in winter weather. 

Edwards referenced a district-issued survey in 2018 under former Supt. Ken Slater about potential sharing options. In November, the Chronicle Times spoke with then-school board member Scott Knaack who reported that previous sports sharing with Kingsley-Pierson had gone well. 

Knaack said then that “the last three years at least we’ve talked about sharing opportunities” and that “both boards are committed to making it work and giving kids opportunities.” Knaack also indicated that the survey from 2018 “guided us to look at Kingsley.” However, Edwards believes that a survey that was given over five years ago may not provide the best direction when making decisions today. 

“Look at those parents who answered that survey. Do they have kids in sports anymore? Do they even have kids that go here anymore?”

Edwards added that the coach in question, Taylor Doeschot, who coaches baseball and is also the head of the youth baseball program, has made it “well aware that our youth is not welcome to join there if our youth does not have teams.” 

It is difficult, she said, as both a parent and a staff member to encourage River Valley students to consider going out for baseball because the coach has made it obvious that “he doesn’t want you. He said he doesn’t need us.” She believes that boys who were on the fence about playing baseball would likely choose to not participate to avoid being treated unfavorably. 

The board discussed the K-P sports sharing agreement, despite it not being listed as a specific agenda item.

There were questions about whether Doeschot has faced repercussions for speaking out at the K-P board meeting as a member of staff. Supt. Bailey informed the River Valley board that he could not speak on the issue, as the individual’s contract is held only through K-P and it is considered a “personnel issue.”

Bailey indicated that the next K-P school board meeting is scheduled for April 8 and expects the sharing agreement to appear as an action item. Although several River Valley school board members have expressed interest in attending or even speaking at a K-P meeting, Bailey cautioned them to remember the rules about open public meetings and inadvertently create a quorum of board members without giving proper notice. 

Bailey said that “track seems to be going really well.” He added that he “has heard a lot of good things from all three coaches — Woodbury Central, River Valley and K-P — that would like to keep it going.” 

Board member Sharleen Duncan read a letter submitted by River Valley track coach Brittani Forrer that said, “I cannot express how much we’ve enjoyed and benefited from the cooperative with Kingsley-Pierson and Woodbury Central. On an average year we’ve had anywhere from eight to 12 girls out for track and field at River Valley. KPWCRV currently has 40 girls on the track team. With the added numbers, River Valley, Kingsley-Pierson and Woodbury Central girls have a more competitive team, which will result in more success throughout the season.”

Forrer’s letter also stated that the girls would be “devastated if our teams had to separate now that we are established as KPWCRV and are concerned about the future of our track team.”

Board member Jessica Wilson referred to the successful AAU volleyball season that recently ended, mentioning only a single complaint that she heard about the students wearing River Valley uniforms. “You walk in that gym, and you can’t tell which kids are from K-P and which kids are from River Valley,” she stated. “If the adults just get out of their way, the kids will be fine. They mesh really well together. There is a lot of promise there. It’s unfortunate that this is going on.” 

Duncan believes that students should be encouraged to speak to the K-P school board, adding that she would hate to see “a small group ruin it for everybody.”

Wilson also expressed her disappointment that the K-P school board did not communicate with or seek input from their community before approving the sharing agreement. “I think it’s a little concerning,” she said.

Board President Bobbi Dewitt, who said she had been speaking with members of the K-P school board, said that “they feel everything is going very well. And it’s not just about the sports, things are happening. You and everybody can see legislatively with teacher shortages, enrollment shortages, and things like that. This is not just about sports issues; sports is just where we start.”

Wilson acknowledged that many K-P parents are concerned that the sports sharing was “the first step to whole-grade sharing,” adding, “They certainly don’t want that.” DeWitt disagreed, saying that “it is not representative of everybody,” reminding her fellow board members that they are supposed to “be there to look out for the best interest of all of our kids in our district.

DeWitt also expressed that she would be “horrified if we had any of our coaches acting the way those coaches were acting. I would be embarrassed as a board member and as a community member.”

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