The resignation of the Jonathan Alder High School boys basketball head coach has officially been approved.
The district board of education accepted Brent Cahill’s resignation at Monday’s regular meeting after an emotional public comments portion where seven speakers, made up of students, parents and a coach, expressed tearful concerns over Cahill’s leaving.
“I made this decision to resign to spend more time with my family,” Cahill said in the letter. “I am very thankful to all my players and assistant coaches who helped build the program the right way over my eight years as head coach.”
The letter was submitted to the board on Apr. 26.
Although the resignation came from the coach, students and parents attending the meeting Monday said they felt the resignation might have been “forced,” alluding to accusations made against the coach regarding behavior during practices and in games.
“It’s fair to say I was completely devastated when I heard about the firing of Coach Cahill,” said student Connor Reed. “He treated me as well as my teammates with nothing but consistent respect and consistent support.”
Other students had similar feelings and alluded to the accusations.
“I spent a lot of time with Cahill and never noticed any bullying or hazing or anything like that,” said Jacob Koenig, a student who played under Cahill for four years.
The board never formally addressed details about the accusations, but many of the speakers refuted the use of any bullying or hazing tactics by the coach.
“This is a very frustrating situation here because what I feel is there was one or two kids that had an issue with Mr. Cahill this year. Neither of them directly played for him at the varsity level,” said Rick Headings, a parent in the district. “Accusations were brought upon him and what I’m hearing is it was based on things in the past. Mr. Cahill didn’t get one technical foul against him this year. His sideline behavior was typical of any coach.”
Another parent, Sonia Walker, talked to the board about giving Cahill a chance to defend his position.
“The way the school handled this situation with Coach Cahill is wrong,” she said. “At very least he deserves the respect to be able to present his side of the story.”
The final speaker at the meeting was Scott Heiss, the junior high coach at Alder.
“I’ve never seen him bully or harass players,” said Heiss. He said that Cahill has an “open-door policy” and people were always welcome to come and see how the practices were conducted.
Just before the comments portion began, board president, Steve Votaw, told the crowd that they planned to meet with Cahill.
“We wanted to let you know that we are meeting with Coach Cahill after the board meeting in executive session,” he said. According to a statement from the board released on Tuesday, the session lasted 75 minutes.
“Decisions like this are extremely difficult and the board must look at many factors when someone’s position is at stake. In looking at coaching skills, communication skills, leadership skills, integrity, and trust over the past 8 years, we chose to accept his April 26, 2019 resignation,” the statement said. “I fully understand the support for Mr. Cahill and respect that support. We know you are not pleased with the decision but we hope you understand that we made this decision with very careful consideration. After hearing those compelling comments from our students, we could not make this kind of decision without serious deliberation. We firmly believe that Mr. Cahill was treated fairly and with respect but we need to move forward. We hope you will continue to support our JA Boys Basketball Program.”
The written statement was sent out to families and beyond that, the board made no other comments on the decision, resignation or accusations discussed by speakers at the meeting.
The Journal-Tribune has requested Cahill’s personnel file and was told the district would be in contact “as soon as possible.”
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