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May 13, 2014

LG board takes no action on hoops vacancy

LOCUST GROVE, OK — The Locust Grove head boys basketball coach position is still open after the school board met Monday night.

About 100 members of the Locust Grove community squeezed into the school board's conference room to offer comments in support of the ousted coaches and hear the board's decisions on agenda items.

The board released former head boys basketball coach Ronnie Maple, along with head wrestling coach Johnny Cook, assistant wrestling coach Tony Cook and cheerleading coach Amy Brown April 15.

The board entered a three-hour, 15-minute executive session after a lengthy open forum and returned to act on the remaining agenda items. No action was taken on the basketball coaching vacancy, which was not on the agenda, but the board did unanimously approve the hiring of two coaches: head wrestling coach Donnie Curtis and assistant basketball and football coach Erwin Starts.

The board also accepted Brown's resignation.

Maple did not attend the open meeting, but met with the board during executive session midway through the nearly five-hour meeting.

Superintendent David Cash said after the meeting that Maple has re-applied for his old position, and the board will consider his application along with the others it has received.

Maple told The Times April 15 that Cash had told him "the board wanted to head in a different direction" when he was relieved of his coaching duties.

"There was never, ever, any board member that said anything about a change of direction," Board President Rick Condit said during the open forum section of the meeting. "Let me make that perfectly clear ... If you heard it, you didn't hear it from this board."

"So why are we firing them?" one citizen asked.

Condit, who was one of the board members who voted to let Maple go, said he could not answer.

"Can you tell me who you're looking for to replace him (Maple)? Your own idea?" another citizen asked.

"No," Condit said.

Condit quickly ended a line of questions from one parent which appeared to be aimed at individual board members. Such questions would have violated the board's rules of public comment.

The board appeared open to hearing most comments and criticisms of its actions during the 90-minute open forum, but for the most part did not take advantage of the podium to defend those actions.

Many community members voiced opinions during the meeting, including members of Maple's seventh-grade basketball team, who read individual statements about the impact Maple has had on them, and LG senior Sydnie Pierce, who presented dozens of letters from Maple's students asking the school board to reconsider its decision.

"We really take into consideration what [the students'] feelings are," Board Member Cyndi Moore said. "We're not perfect more than anyone else is ... I want to do what's best for our kids. There are a lot of things that have come out and I appreciate you all standing up for what you believe in, I respect it. But I have to follow the rules."

Moore implored concerned citizens to do their research, as the board has done, prompting some in attendance to wonder aloud how to do the research when they believe the board has acted without transparency.

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