Ensign named Ely’s hockey coach

by Sharee Johnson

In a 3-2 split decision, the Ely School Board approved Brian Ensign as head hockey coach for the 2004-2005 season.<BR><BR>Board member Keith Turner was absent.<BR><BR>The board held a half hour public discussion prior to its regular meeting due to the controversy over the head coach recommendation.<BR><BR>Many of the approximately 25 parents at the discussion offered support for Pat MacMillan. Some parents said that Ensign says one thing, then changes his mind. The kids are told they will play in a game, but when they arrive they’re told they can’t play. When the kids ask why they can’t play, he says, “Because I said so.” <BR><BR>One parent said the majority of kids prefer Pat MacMillan.<BR><BR>A parent asked, “If there really is this much conflict and controversy, does the decision really need to be made tonight?”<BR><BR>Board Chairman Rudy Semeja said,“We can have more discussion later when it comes up on the agenda, but now we need to start the board meeting.”<BR><BR>During the regular meeting board member Steve Park made the motion and board member Peggy York-Jesme seconded to accept Brian Ensign as head hockey coach.<BR><BR>Board member Ray Marsnik said, “There is a serious moral problem in our hockey program. The biggest job this hockey coach has to do is bring these two sides together. Last season he (Ensign) didn’t have much success doing this. We should look for someone else here.” <BR><BR>Marsnik supported MacMillan for the position.<BR><BR>Semeja said, “Things began to really go downhill when (Gov. Rudy) Perpich set the policy of letting students open enroll in any school. Good players went to Virginia and other places. That transfer and lesser numbers killed the program. I’m really worried the program will go to hell.” <BR><BR>He continued, “We need somebody in this program as head coach who will bring these parents together. We only have five board members here, so maybe we should wait for a special meeting to decide.” He said the special meeting should be scheduled in the next two weeks before Toutloff retires.<BR><BR>York-Jesme said,“I don’t have kids in high school yet, so maybe I don’t understand the passion.” Her concern as a board member was not with the decision but with the process. <BR><BR>A crowd member asked, “Wasn’t the process broken last fall, then?”<BR><BR>York-Jesme said that it didn’t go to board level last fall. <BR><BR>Toutloff said, “Maybe we faltered a year ago.” He said maybe the school should have stayed with the procedure whereby the athletic director makes recommendations to the superintendent, then the recommendation is turned over to the board. <BR><BR>Toutloff continued, “I notice there is volatility with this decision. There is much more input in hiring the hockey coach than any position other than the superintendent. It’s highly unusual to have this much input in the decision.”<BR><BR>Toutloff strongly supported the recommendation for Ensign. “Given time he can bring the program together,” he concluded.<BR><BR>A parent asked who does evaluations and are there any checks and balances.<BR><BR>Toutloff responded that the athletic director does that.<BR><BR>Athletic director Tim Omerza said, “It’s not in my job description to evaluate or grade any coach. I’m not an administrator. I’ve never been asked to do that.”<BR><BR>Semeja expressed his concern with that answer. He said as a board member he’s not happy that Omerza is not evaluating coaches.<BR><BR>Board member Steve Park said he has the same concern as Semeja regarding the viability of the hockey program. He said the school has already lost two kids to Tower and one more is leaving directly as a result of this tension. He said, “Parents are killing the program.” <BR><BR>Park said Ensign is the best candidate to put the program back together. <BR><BR>Semeja asked to limit the discussion given that there already had been a discussion prior to the meeting.<BR><BR>The parents again interrupted to support MacMillan. They said if the board thought it mishandled the situation last year, it has more responsibility now to listen to public concerns. “The board owes us more homework on this decision,” said one concerned parent.<BR><BR>Marsnik asked Omerza why he recommended Ensign.<BR><BR>Omerza said, “I knew Brian more than Pat.” He said he liked Ensign’s answers better in the interview, especially his answers on discipline and experience.<BR><BR>Semeja said the same interview questions were used last fall, so Ensign may have had a little better idea of what the committee would ask. <BR><BR>Semeja said, “How does the board feel? Should we wait for Keith? He should have a vote. This is an important issue.”<BR><BR>Park said next time maybe another board member would be absent, that’s why there are six board members. He said the dichotomy won’t go away even with a delay in making the decision.<BR><BR>Marsnik made a motion to rescind the motion to vote until the board’s next meeting<BR><BR>Semeja supported the motion.<BR><BR>Toutloff said there cannot be a motion to rescind by a board member who did not make the initial motion. <BR><BR>It was decided that the only thing the board could do was to vote on the motion to accept the recommendation to hire Ensign.<BR><BR>The board approved Brian Ensign as head hockey coach for the 2004-2005 hockey season by a 3-2 vote with Marsnik and Semeja dissenting. Park, York-Jesme and Scott Kellerman voted in favor.