GLADSTONE - The Gladstone School Board voted to approve the non-renewal of the varsity football coach's contract at Monday's school board meeting.
The board unanimously approved the non-renewal, though prior to the board taking action, the varsity football coach affected by the move, Josh Mileski, addressed the board.
Mileski said he has spent years dedicated to the sport beginning as a water boy in kindergarten, through playing football in school, up to his appointment as head coach four years ago. As head coach, Mileski led Gladstone to a 2-7 record this past football season.
"I was hired to lead a program, and to the best of my ability, I did this with great work ethic, passion and integrity," he said.
Mileski said he does not feel angry or bitter about the decision and has no regrets, feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to coach, forming friendships with his fellow coaches.
"What bothers me is not being fired," he said, of the board voting not to renew his contract. "What bothers me is how the entire situation was handled by all involved. In six years of coaching in Gladstone, no one .... ever once sat me down and discussed any issue with my coaching."
According to Mileski, after finding out his contract would not be renewed three weeks ago, no one gave him any explanation or has taken ownership of the decision. Instead he's heard only rumors on what led to the action taken.
"The truly sad part of this entire situation is this: had any person in a leadership position in this district approached me with a list of things that needed to be improved or changed in order for me to continue as head football coach, I would have made those changes, or I would have said, 'Sorry, I can't change how I coach. I don't know how to do it any other way,'" noted Mileski.
Trustee Steve O'Driscoll said this morning the reason behind not renewing Mileski's contract was due to multiple incidents regarding the coach's conduct and behavior. Though not going into detail, he said one incident involving Mileski this football season was the "last straw" leading to his dismissal.
"Mr. Mileski's behavior over the last few years has not lived up to the mentoring and moral standards that we would hope to have coaches demonstrating for our kids," said O'Driscoll. "That is not to say that it's a thing that he's consistently had problems. He has had just some isolated incidents."
Andy Doutree, a JV football coach, also addressed the board about issues between the coaches and parents of players in the athletic program, saying the actions of some parents have crossed the line in the last two football seasons. Some examples he gave were the slandering of coaches' names on social media, yelling and screaming at a coach's family member over the phone, or swearing at a coach in front of their child.
Doutree said he feels the voices of those parents are heard demanding certain coaches be fired. However, he said in regard to the non-renewal of Mileski's contract, other coaches were not consulted about Mileski's coaching style or other possible issues prior to the board's decision.
During the meeting, board secretary Linda Howlett said she felt Mileski and Doutree had some good points when addressing the board, but stood by the decision. Speaking for herself, she said she felt the situation could have probably been handled better, taking ownership for the action taken.
"One of the things you said is that no one has owned this issue ... and I will personally say, I will own this to the extent that I can, because I believe that my fellow board members would say that I was one of the people that kind of started the discussions that got us to this point," she said. "I'm not happy about that. I'm not happy that we're dealing with this issue."
She added that, as a board member, she can understand what it's like to have people saying negative things about them in front of children, a spouse, or on social media, having experienced this herself.
She called these actions "inexcusable," but said she had some concerns with coaching that go back beyond just this year.
"I was under the impression that the concerns that had been discussed in past years had been shared with you, and if they were not, I apologize," she said. "But I believe that we made the right decision. I believe that it's reasonable to have very high expectations for the conduct of our coaches because you are role models."
In response to Mileski's concerns of not being approached by anyone regarding his coaching, Howlett said she felt coming directly to Mileski would have been inappropriate.
Trustee Bill Milligan said he also owns the decision reached, while trustee Steve O'Driscoll spoke on Mileski and Doutree's concerns. O'Driscoll noted more than one year ago the board passed a new athletic policy for "participation and expectations of coaches at all levels," as well as for student athletes. According to him, kids have been told that "winning is everything," which causes some students to act the exact opposite of how they hope athletics would teach them to.
"Therefore we sought to set a new parameter for things ... to try to mentor our kids and use that athletic venue as a better education place for developing those young men and women into fine, outstanding adults by showing them and mentoring them in those areas," said O'Driscoll. "By no means was that athletic policy a witch hunt to go after people. It was just a higher expectation that we hope that we all can live up to."
O'Driscoll said he feels disgusted by how some parents treat coaches and said the board might be in a position to do something about it, especially in the district's buildings.
"That should be something that we put our full effort behind because you can't do your job on the field unless you're supported by this board in that way," he said.