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Inside the Chrome Dome (archive June 2007)

Please refer to the Inside the Chrome Dome main page for columns published in other issues.




 When Will We Get Over Out Self-Inflicted Paranoia?

The things paranoia causes people to do.

...The family dog comes walking into the yard carrying in its jaws the corpse of their neighbor’s pet rabbit. In a panic so as not to alienate their neighbors, they wash and blow dry the dead rabbit to give it the appearance of life, and then return it to its cage in the neighbor’s back yard. The neighbors are horrified the next day to discover that some sick person has dug up their rabbit, which had died the day before, and put it back in its cage. ...

I was reminded of that old rabbit story because of the events that have unfolded over the past couple of weeks involving individuals participating in the search for a new KHS basketball coach.

It all started when Knightstown Panther head basketball coach Chad Ballenger announced he was leaving. Superintendent David McGuire picked up the telephone and started calling people to serve on a committee that would recommend a new coach to the school board.

A few moves were made behind closed doors. People were told to do things, but no one else knew what they were doing. Meetings were held, and interviews were conducted, but no announcements of those actions were made publicly.

Two different people were accused of attempting to ramrod their personal choice as basketball coach into the position. Some people called to tell me there was a conspiracy to stack the deck in favor of one candidate, and another effort to set establish unique requirements that would essentially eliminate several others who were seeking the job.

Everywhere I turned, I ran into people who wanted to talk about who would be the next basketball coach. Each of those people wondered why nothing was being done, since camps were getting underway at every high school in the state.

I told all those people what I thought would happen. I thought someone from the school would appoint a committee to interview potential candidates, and that committee would make a recommendation to the school board. I had no idea who would make those committee appointments, since both the superintendent and high school principal had announced they were leaving.

But a couple of days ago a person overheard one of those conversations and told me he had served on the committee, and that it had already been done.

“What part?” I asked. “The committee, or the interviews, or what?”

Apparently, everything. The committee had set up to interview six finalists, received packets on those six, and interviewed five. One withdrew prior to the interview. They agreed, in a unanimous voice, on the one person the committee would recommend the school board hire.

I hadn’t even heard they were beyond the process of discussing the appointment of a committee. What I had heard, however, was that two key players in the process were trying to get their personal choice into the job. Outgoing principal Jim Diagostino was strongly recommending a friend of his from a past job assignment, and the principal was on the committee. Additionally, athletic director Dave Bradford applied for the job himself, although there is no evidence to suggest he did anything other than interview for the position and state his case.

Diagostino and Vice-principal Dan Jack went through the initial applications, numbering, according to whom you ask, more than 50. They whittled the applicants down to the final six, which included Diagostino’s man, and Bradford. The final six didn’t include junior varsity basketball coach Justin Linch, who has held that position for 10 years and applied for the varsity job. He never received an interview.

There were three key mistakes that occurred in this process, and those mistakes, without a doubt, led to small fires being started in certain circles of the community. All three mistakes could have, and should have been avoided.

One, the news that a committee had been appointed and would be interviewing applicants should have been revealed when it occurred, not after it had been done. This isn’t top-secret stuff, and such committees are not allowed to be kept confidential. All nine members of the committee have still not been provided to me, so I honestly don’t know who they were.

Two, Diagostino and Dr. McGuire should have had no involvement whatsoever in the selection process since they were both leaving and had no further interests in this school corporation. How many of us have ever quit a job and then been allowed to fill vacancies in our place of work?

Three, the specific job requirements, which eliminated Linch and several other candidates, should have been made absolutely 100-percent clear from the very beginning of the search announcement.

These failures are what caused the rumors to fly about conspiracies and stacked decks. What caused those failures? Trust me on this one, it was paranoia. Nobody wanted to talk about anything during the entire process. Everyone was and is running scared and afraid to make a mistake, which is causing everyone to make more mistakes.

Sure, bad things have happened.

The school corporation has been sued … more than once. There have been disciplinary issues with students that may or may not have been handled correctly. The former business manager is facing felony charges of stealing money from all of us. The school board may have listened to a little bad advice from legal council. The best principal we had retired. The basketball coach quit, then the high school principal quit, and then the superintendent announced he was quitting after just one year. Our property tax bills are so big they block the surround-sound on our televisions.

But let’s revisit that previous paragraph and see what potential the rainbow has for us.

The school’s involvement in the lawsuits is almost history. Rumor is the last one is nearing an end. Yes, we’ve had disciplinary issues at the high school, but we are getting a new principal who will hopefully be more mature and better equipped to handle the teenagers of today.

We’ve lost some key personnel, but have already made a smart hire of one principal. We now have a good business manager. We have the opportunity to hire a good high school principal, basketball coach, and most importantly, a superintendent who wants to be here and get our ship back on course. The opportunity to do all of that is within reach.

But we’ve got to get over this paranoia … this first instinct of keeping everything under wraps until we are forced to make it public. Operating behind closed doors when it’s just not necessary only festers mistrust and gives life to false rumors.

It creates a state of paranoia, and that just causes people to dig up their neighbor’s dead rabbit.



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