By Tiffany L. Rehbein
CHINOOK - The Chinook Public School Board of Trustees voted to deny a former boys' basketball head coach's grievance at a regularly scheduled school board meeting Tuesday.
Glenn Smith filed a grievance claiming he was not given a written notice of an assignment, reassignment or transfer of duties and the opportunity to discuss the Chinook Public School's administration's decision.
Smith was put on administrative leave Jan. 24 and relieved of his head coaching duties of the Chinook Sugarbeeters boys' varsity basketball team.
"Based on the info about 5210 that we received tonight, I move that Mr. Smith's grievance be denied," Warren Lybeck, school board trustee, moved.
The board voted 8-1 to uphold the motion.
Trustee Polly Miller, who had the lone dissenting vote, made a motion to hear further discussion about the case which received a second.
After further discussion, Miller made a motion to reinstate Smith. The motion died due to lack of a second from the school board.
"I think the initial decision that passed, that the policy had not been violated, was correct," said Elizabeth Kaleva, the attorney representing Chinook Public Schools. Kaleva is the Policy Counsel of the Montana High School Association.
Smith alleged, according to Board Policy 5210, that he was not given written notice of reassignment or the opportunity to discuss a proposed transfer or reassignment after being put on administrative leave from his head coaching position of the boys' basketball program at Chinook.
"Mr. Smith admitted in the meeting that he had been given written notice, and both Mr. (Walt) Acra and Mr. (Jay) Eslick agreed that he had been given a chance to respond," Kaleva said.
The written notice was given to Smith in a letter dated Jan. 24, 2000, which said Smith was placed on administrative leave. Jay Eslick, superintendent, initialed the letter. Walt Acra is the principal of Chinook High School.
"He was assigned to administrative leave based on information that he was insubordinate," Kaleva said. "The board did not believe the policy had been violated. He had been given an opportunity to respond and he had been given notice."
Smith's insubordinate actions stemmed from an "attitude expressed in front of the boys' basketball team at practice on Friday, January, 21, 2000," the letter said.
"The fix was in," said Andrew Huppert, attorney at law representing Smith. "This board had already made up its mind before the meeting ever started. It didn't matter if their superintendent violated school policy or if there was no basis for his decision. The board was not going to overrule him to save a basketball coach's job, especially a coach working under a one-year contract."
Huppert said he had not had an opportunity to discuss the next step with Smith.
"The best thing about the meeting was that Glenn Smith was able to clear his good name," Huppert said. "Glenn is a fine, decent man who did nothing wrong and I think the people who attended that meeting could see that. The only mistake Glenn might have made was agreeing to take that coaching job in the first place."