Dee Heny, Mike’s mother and board member, excused herself from the meeting immediately following the approval of agenda item 9.4, which removed her son from his position as head coach.
“With that, Mr. Chairman, I think I will leave, because I don’t approve of any of this,” Dee said. “So carry on.”
The board did, working through the remainder of the agenda without another mention of basketball, coaching or either Heny.
Dee’s exit punctuated a tense 10 minutes regarding Mike Heny’s impending termination.
It began when board chairman Rob McCray opened the floor to public comment, reminding those in attendance that the board does not “discuss personnel items in public.” When no one spoke up, he moved on to the evening’s new business.
Dee looked into the crowd’s second row where former Powell mayor Scott Mangold and Eric Robirds sat. She mouthed to them, “Are you going to say something?”
As Patty Wurzel moved to pass the first motion, Dee spoke up.
“Excuse me Mr. Chairman, are you sure you got the comments you wanted? You didn’t wait very long.”
McCray obliged, looked in Mangold and Robirds’ direction and asked if anyone would like to speak, so long as it was not regarding personnel matters.
“It’s my personal comments regarding my opinion about the basketball program. I’m not asking you to discuss anything, they’re my comments,” Robirds explained.
McCray clarified that only agenda items can be discussed during meetings, and since Mike Heny’s termination, not the basketball program in general, was on the agenda, Robirds could not give his comments.
“You guys are unreal,” Robirds told the board members.
Mangold and McCray then had an exchange regarding the process of getting an item on a future school board meeting agenda.
In an interview with the Tribune, Mangold said he wishes to discuss during a future meeting the procedures taken to terminate a coach and to give insight about how the city handled similar situations while keeping the public as informed as possible.
“I just wanted to ask questions about what processes they took, but they didn’t want to hear them,” Mangold said. “The whole process just seemed really strange, and basically what I want to do is give them some insight.”
Mitchell said the board’s governance policies limit public comments to items on that month’s agenda. The policy is designed to give the public a voice on only scheduled items “so that people don’t barrage the board with items (the board) can’t have any time to review or have information on.”
Mangold wondered if Heny was given warnings about his job performance, and if so, why that wasn’t released to the public. Heny said on Monday he was not made aware of any issues until six weeks after the basketball season’s end.
“I think if they just come out and say that it was a failed evaluation, where they were giving warnings about some of the processes that he was doing, that would help alleviate the situation.”
Mangold said giving some type of explanation for Heny’s firing would quell potentially damaging rumors that any misconduct took place.
“(In) a small town, information is passed quickly, but misinformation goes quicker,” Mangold said. “We got to protect the integrity of someone who’s teaching inside the school system.”
Mitchell assured there is no truth to any egregious gossip circulating around town.
“I’m certainly not aware of any gross misconduct or immoral behavior,” he told the Tribune.
Heny will continue to teach business and graphic design classes at the high school, as well as coach the football team as an assistant.
“What I would like to know is if he’s being asked to resign it’s for a legitimate reason,” Robirds said. “I question what that reason might be when he’s still going to coach, he’s still teaching.”
As for the vacancy atop the varsity basketball team, Mangold and Robirds said they worry the mysterious nature of Heny’s firing will deter quality candidates from joining the Panthers.
“If (Mike Heny) did something that warranted this, that was out of line, I have no problem with it. But if it’s about parents not being happy, we won’t ever have a coach for very long,” Robirds said.
The people who know specifics to the termination – Mike Heny, the school board, Superintendent Mitchell — have not shared them publicly, leaving the rest of Powell and the Wyoming prep basketball community to speculate.
The prevailing rumor swirling around town about Heny’s firing centers around a faction of parents displeased with how Heny distributed playing time among his players.
If that’s the case, Robirds said, Heny was unjustly let go.
“Once you get to the varsity level, the best kids should play regardless of age or last name or anything else,” Robirds said. “If we’re going to get to a place where parents determine the fate of a coach or a program — if that is one of the reasons — every parent should be given the opportunity to speak; all their opinions should be solicited.”
Mitchell said the search for a new coach has informally begun.
“We will start advertising immediately, especially in district and locally,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully we can secure a new head coach soon.”
An executive session, during which matters of personnel and/or litigation and/or property purchase were discussed, took place prior to the regular meeting’s call to order Tuesday. Dee Heny attended that session.
Dee Heny declined comment. A call to PHS athletic director Tim Wormald was not returned by press time Wednesday.