Kenny Howell, dismissed last May as head basketball coach at Spingarn High School by Principal Ann Thomas for what she said was an unsatisfactory performance, was reinstated this week after a hearing officer ruled he was unjustly fired.
Howell, a chemistry teacher at the Northeast Washington school for the past 19 years, said he was extremely pleased by the decision but thought all along he would be reinstated. When he was notified of his release, Howell immediately filed a grievance against the administration, citing a violation of the Washington Teachers Union contract.
Carl Hymes, a special assistant to Region C Superintendent Barbara Jackson, ruled in Howell's favor, citing insufficient evidence to justify his firing.
"Even though there were corroborating witnesses to support the claims by the principal, there was nothing in writing," Hymes said yesterday. "And to ask for someone's removal, there must be some documentation. People can say anything and if those issues were true, someone should have written down something at some point. There was nothing in writing so I had to rule in Mr. Howell's favor."
Thomas said she instigated the action because she was displeased with several aspects of Howell's coaching and court demeanor. In a letter she wrote to Howell detailing her reasons for dismissing him, she indicated Howell's coaching was interfering with his teaching duties, that he failed "to maintain a professional relationship with game officials" and that he failed "to maintain team discipline and control." When asked to provide specific examples yesterday, she declined to elaborate.
Thomas also said her position regarding Howell has not changed and that she felt she had followed correct procedures in asking for Howell's dismissal.
"I read the conditions of the teachers' contract and felt I was correct," Thomas said. "But I lost on a technicality of sorts. I had witnesses to support my claims, but actual testimony does not carry as much weight as written evidence."
Howell, who has coached the football team (four years, 23-16-4) and the baseball team (five years, 48-29) in previous years, said he has no ill feelings toward anyone despite the conditions under which he will be working.
"Thomas and other administrators are monitoring everything I do, my practices, my tutor sessions, everything," Howell said. "I didn't appreciate that at first, now it doesn't affect me because I'm teaching the skills these young men should know. I think the problem in the beginning stemmed from the administration expecting too much too soon.
"I took over a team that just finished 31-0 and it takes time to rebuild a program. But I'm not attacking anyone personally, I'm just glad I got the opportunity to coach again and, hopefully, we will be able to improve over last year. We were 15-12 in each of my two years and we made the playoffs both seasons. What's wrong with that?
"This is the third year of my three-year contract and I don't know if I will reapply again."
Thomas, who had appointed Bobby Burrell as head coach, said she met with both Burrell and the players recently to explain the situation. Burrell, a former Spingarn assistant, will not be involved with the team this year.
"Some of the kids wanted to know why they didn't have a say in who would be the coach and I told them this was a decision they had no say in," Thomas said. "I told them it's time for us to join together and work toward having a fine season. I will not allow any complaints.
"I did what I thought was best and I lost. As far as monitoring Mr. Howell, we consider it a support system that is designed to assist him in any way. We have some fine talent here and we just want to see to it the kids are not shortchanged."