Bloomington coach responds to board's decision


April 3, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2010 at 11:03 p.m.

BLOOMINGTON - Days after the Bloomington school board proposed not renewing the contract of Edgar Vander Stucken, the softball and cross country coach responded to the board's decision.

"It's unknown to both myself and the athletic director why they have taken these steps," he said Friday.

Vander Stucken addressed athletes last week after athletic director Paul Baird heard the board might propose non-renewal, he said.

There were tears and then action: Students wrote letters to the board and the Advocate, attempted to pass around a petition and staged a walkout early last week.

"The petitions, letters, and walkout staged last week were done by students who felt they needed to support a teacher and coach who has supported them in the past," Vander Stucken said, in a written statement he presented to the Advocate Friday. "They feel the school board is not making the right decision. Luckily, we live in a country that allows students to voice their opinions and let their concerns be heard by the people in charge."

The board went against the recommendations of Bloomington school district's athletic director and superintendent as well as the high school's principal and proposed to non-renew Vander Stucken, he said.

Attempts to verify this were not successful Saturday. Calls to Baird and Superintendent Brad Williams were not returned.

His contract, if the proposed non-renewal passes, would run out at the end of the school year, capping off his four-year stint with the district.

Non-renewal for a teacher or coach can spell trouble finding future employment in the profession. Vander Stucken said most job applications ask whether the applicant has ever been non-renewed. If marked yes, employers usually look elsewhere, he said.

The coach plans to appeal the proposal at a yet unscheduled hearing this month. In the hearing, the board will present reasons it chose not to renew Vander Stucken's contract.

Some students and parents believe the board proposed non-renewal because it was concerned Vander Stucken was becoming too close to his students.

David Priour, a Bloomington High School parent, worries about the academic implications of the move. Vander Stucken was one of the best English teachers the school had, he said.

He did not have concerns about the coach's relationship with his students.

"That means he's working hand-in-hand with his students if he's passing 94 percent of his students," Priour said.

The coach posed for a team picture with a female freshman runner hoisted on his shoulders after a 2009 cross country meet in Bay City.

He has not given personal rides to students since last year, when the athletic director and superintendent disallowed coaches giving rides to students, Vander Stucken said.

The coach has attended with his students Fellowship of Christian Athletes activities on their own time, but beyond that his personal life and his students' are separate, he said.

"Outside the classroom or the gym or the athletic field, however you want to put it, zero," he said, when asked how much time he spends with his students beyond his teacher-coach duties. "I don't spend personal time with my students."



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