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Coaching choice causes rift at Verndale

Photo by Brian Hansel Verndale 9-12 English teacher Tim Fiskum was angry and disappointed by the Verndale School Board's vote to give the head boys' basketball coaching position to Jordan Hinkle. Fiskum, who has taught in Verndale since 1996, has applied for the position twice.

The June meeting of the Verndale School Board opened with a stormy session Monday night.

Tim Fiskum, a 9-12 English instructor at Verndale, was supported by more than 20 people when he challenged superintendent Paul Brownlow's recommendation that Jordan Hinkle replace Greg Johnson as the head boys' basketball coach.

Brownlow had three candidates for the head coaching position.

"I recommended whom I though was the best candidate of the three," Brownlow said.

Fiskum has been on the Verndale teaching staff since 1996. He has applied for the head coaching job twice. Brownlow was not a District 818 administrator when Fiskum applied the first time. Hinkle has been serving as an assistant to Johnson.

After hearing the comments by members of the public in an opening meeting, the board held a voice vote and approved Brownlow's recommendation that Hinkle receive the job. When board chairman Marcus Edin made the announcement, an angry Fiskum rose to address the board.

"Before I leave I would just like to say that I am going to demand that I get in writing specific reasons why I did not get this job or I will seek other ways to get it, that's No. 1," Fiskum said. "No. 2, I am a professional and I am a teacher and I do the very best job I can and you can ask anyone here but when I get cheated out of this same position two times in this same school district, I am a human being too, and so it makes it very difficult for me to come work here every day and do the kind of job I am supposed to do."

Edin stated that he understood and agreed that Fiskum is a good teacher.

"It doesn't do much good, does it?" Fiskum retorted.

The board approved a recommendation to discontinue a pre-school contract with the Otter Tail Community Action Council and host its own program as a money-saving measure. Verndale will continue to co-op with the OTC Action Council on a Head Start program.

In other business, bread, milk and fuel bids were approved for the coming school year, a preliminary budget was approved, a resolution was approved to transfer money from the general fund to the to staff development fund and a one-year child care leave of absence was granted for elementary teacher Sheyenne Sebeck. A previous request for leave to care for twins was denied by the board but Sebeck is once again expecting a baby. Brownlow will contact Sebeck in February to ascertain her availability to teach again in the 2011-2012 school year.