BEDFORD — Former girls’ varsity basketball coach Sue Thomas, who is appealing the administration’s decision to fire her, urged school officials on Monday to provide students and staff with lessons on conflict resolution.
While she may have been fired regardless, Thomas told the school board, “we would not be here today if we had some conflict resolution steps put in place.”
One week after Thomas, the longtime coach at Bedford High School, was fired mid-season, she approached the School Board during a public meeting asking the board to offer staff and students lessons on conflict resolution.
“It is extremely rare — almost an unheard of step — for a coach’s contract to be severed mid-season,” she said.
According to Superintendent Mike Fournier, Thomas was fired because she allegedly fostered a negative culture and the players felt intimidated.
On Monday, Thomas maintained that Assistant Coach Kevin Gibbs, who is now the interim head coach of the team, never complained to the athletic director about her coaching style.
“If the conditions of practice and with the team were so bad as to publicly fire me, why was my assistant coach — the other adult in the gym 99 percent over the last two and a half years — given the position?” asked Thomas. “He was either complicit in the events, or nothing happened for him to complain about.”
If he was complicit, Thomas said Gibbs should have been let go as well, adding if there was nothing to complain about, she should still be coach.
“Those are the only two options,” she contended.
On Monday, Thomas filed an official appeal of the administration’s decision to terminate her contract.
“I would have filed an appeal right away, but I was led to believe I had no road to return,” she told the board.
Thomas’ two daughters also spoke to school officials on Monday, urging educators and parents to stop sugarcoating the world, have the tough conversations, teach children to embrace challenges and focus on conflict resolution.
Members of the School Board did not comment on their remarks.
In regard to the appeals process, Fournier said Tuesday testimony will be reviewed from both sides and a decision rendered based on that information.
“No timeline has been set or is required,” he said.
An investigation was previously launched by Athletic Director Corey Parker and Principal Bill Hagen that involved interviews with the female athletes and additional coaching staff, Fournier said earlier. He ultimately supported their recommendation to terminate Thomas’ contract.
“The team members felt intimidated, and felt as though the culture was negative,” he said previously.
According to Fournier, this is not the first time that concerns surrounding Thomas have been brought to the attention of the athletic department; he said previous athletic directors and administrators have worked on these issues in the past.