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Garretson community reacts to contract termination of school Principal

(KSFY)
Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 8:50 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -A meeting of the Garretson School board concluded Wednesday night by announcing to those waiting for their decision. The contract of the high school principal and football coach was terminated.

Chris Long had served the district for 13 years.

Garretson High School Junior Matthew Gilbert has good memories of Principal Christ Long.

“He actually cared about me who would open up the gym, just so that I could go in and shoot around a little bit,” said Long.

Brennan Mudder, who graduated in 2019 said his middle school years were a rocky start with Mr. Long.

“If I was in trouble, I was in trouble. And he made sure that I knew that he kind of made me into the person I was by the end of high school and where I am now,” said Mudder.

And Jacob Schmidt, who graduated in 2020 was impressed when Long got a CDL license because they were short on bus drivers, and helped in other ways.

“So I was big in FFA in high school, and he helped out with that,” said Mudder.

Gilbert went to Wednesday night’s school board meeting to support Long.

“Yeah, at the end of the meeting, they brought us back in and said that they’ve just told us that he’s terminated,” said Gilbert.

In a statement from the school board, “the hearing was at the request of the employee, after receiving a recommendation for termination of a contract, for not following and violating district policies.”

Sources tell Dakota News Now the school policy violation centers around an incident where three students attacked another at a track meet last May. Long, as a mandatory reporter allegedly did not report the event. One of the students plead guilty to simple assault and awaits sentencing in April.

Parent Aimee Gilbert says the school needs a plan to help the students.

“They’re wounded, and we just really need to find a way to help them move on.

Some in the community voiced concerns for the victim of the May incident, and that this person would somehow be blamed for the termination of Mr. Long. Legal documents indicate the student didn’t want the other students being investigated to get into trouble. The incident was reported by a parent, which lead to an investigation and eventually a charge against a student in Minnehaha County.

While the school board encourages families to refrain from spreading misinformation, some in the community say it would be easier if more information was provided by the school.

“Feel like there should have been more explanation of why he’s not coming back. What happened,” said Schmidt.

As Gilbert finishes his high school years, he says he’ll give their next Principal a fair shot.

“Try to talk to him and stuff but it seriously just won’t be the same because again, it’s not Chris Long,” said Gilbert.

Schmidt says about two years ago, a basketball coach was also terminated with little information provided to students or families as to what the circumstances were.

A statement was released by the school board:

“The Garretson School Board met Wednesday night February 23rd for an employee hearing that had been scheduled. This hearing was at the request of the employee after receiving a recommendation for termination of contract for not following and violating district policies.

While it is unfortunate the timelines stretched out, it was important that as a board we kept confidentiality for the employee and students and understood the parties involved were working through processes. These processes once started were out of the districts control until completed.

As a board, we worked to understand the impact of the situation on all parties involved, and the temperature and feelings of many in the district.

At Wednesday night’s hearing, we were presented exhibits, heard testimony, and asked questions. This was done as part of the judicial capacity of our positions on the school board. In the end, the board voted unanimously to terminate Mr. Long’s contract.

Mr. Long has served our district for 13 years and has been part of a team involved in many very good things that are happening at our district. The collective team that makes up the Garretson School District can be proud of many accomplishments at the Home of the Blue Dragons.

Unfortunately, the hearing led the board to the conclusion that this decision was necessary. We do understand the bond that a principal and football coach forms with many and this is surely hard to understand for some. As a board, our hope is that the Garretson community can put trust in our decision and the work we will have to do with our administrative team, staff, and students to begin the healing process.

Many people, some are front and center, and some that are behind the scenes have been uniquely impacted by process that has played out. We would also issue a challenge to take a step back, reflect, think through your own actions, and realize that we are not helping the problem heal by attacking others and spreading misinformation.

Our district will be starting the process of hiring a new principal and we will work step by step to review what we have learned, use it as part of our tools, and work towards the future.

The Garretson School district is a great place, we believe in the people in our district and their vision to follow our motto of “Growing our Future, Every Child, Every Day” There are great things happening today, but it is easy for them to be overshadowed when situations like this unfold.

We thank every person that is part of this district for the role they play to make good things happen and look forward with hope and optimism for the future, even with the challenge of today.”

For the Board

President-Shannon Nordstrom

Vice President-Kari Flanagan

Rachel Hanisch

Jodi Linneweber

Ryan Longhenry

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