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Coach’s termination raises questions

The aftermath of Mike Heny’s termination as head coach of the Powell High School boys’ basketball team left the Powell school board short-handed, the public to speculate, and a former public official seeking answers.

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.

Robirds did.

“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.

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9 comments

  • posted by Belief in our school leaders

    May 20, 2013 10:29 pm

    Lets be careful with putting coaching quality and teaching quality in same comment. Always dangerous about anyone. As well as saying popular and excellent go hand in hand. Find the " other side " to your stories that you mentioned and you may just be amazed. School administrators may not get paid enough simply due to fact they must protect confidentiality so honesty can be spoken but can never publicly defend themselves. Tough job...even more challenging than coaching.

  • posted by Questioning leadership

    May 17, 2013 11:39 pm

    There will be changes in the upcoming elections. Mike Heny is an at-will employee, but why wasn't he even granted an interview with Mitchell? This is Powell for damn sake. Or Wormald? Give me a break. Give him a reason and this would be a different story, but the admins are hiding behind the veil of 'personnel issues'. Do you two understand your reputation in this community? I'm serious. When you pull off this stunt with this obvious puppet Board then you should start considering your salaries. I completely understand the pressures of your job but this was played out with an arrogance of a tyranny. Would you like to be fired without an explanation? Absolutely not. My kids are receiving a wonderful education but I really credit the teachers and not the bs passed down. Maybe you need to focus on the staffs unspoken concerns rather than a successfull basketball coach whose real success is in developing men. I really wonder if you, Mr. Mitchell, you realize your reputation within your ranks? Focus my friend. You are very intelligent and that is a fact. You need to lead without fear of retaliation. I'm not a school employee but this fear is an open secret within this community. I could be totally wrong and am associated with a minority faction, but I don't think I am. And on to the school board... you need to realize what you have done. I don't care if Mr. Heny did something reprehensible. He deserved an explanation for why he was let go of his position. This is not a polical idea. This is a leadership and governance issue. You do not have to release the reason whr he was relieved of his duty of coaching BB but an explanation was the decent thing to do. I've also heard he is an excellent and popular teacher and that should count for something. Good luck in hiring quality coaches of any sport or extriciluar activities in the future.

  • posted by The golden rule

    May 17, 2013 12:33 pm

    I'm glad to see all of you who have so much to say aren't on the board! If you have such strong opinions about all this why aren't you a board member or going for any of these jobs? Its pretty easy to sit back and criticize when you aren't the one doing the job. Glad to see we have so many "experts" living in Powell! If you wouldn't want someone criticizing your job that they've never done, don't do it to someone else.

  • posted by Concerned with the Board

    May 17, 2013 11:06 am

    I understand that Mr. Mitchell has come under some scrutiny in the public's opinion because of all that has happened, but the blame just doesn't lie with him! Take a look at the Park County School District #1 website, and look at the Board of Trustees page. You will notice at the bottom that all questions and comments are filtered through the superintendent Mitchell. So if all questions and comments are made to Mr. Mitchell, then how aware are the actual school board members of the circumstances of these types of situations?!?........oh yes, they are spoon fed the BS that the superintendent decides to pass along. If school board has been entrusted with overseeing the school district then why are they meekly allowing the superintendent to dictate what information they receive. Come on people, take some responsibility for the position that you hold! This is ridiculous!

  • posted by Disappointed in Powell

    May 17, 2013 10:55 am

    Excuse me, but how can you say "Kudos to the board for doing the tough job of looking out for all kids" in this instance?! Were the complaints from the kids? I think a better comment would be, "The board should have done a little more thorough research into all of the allegations instead of relying solely on the word of a superintendent that obviously has a hidden agenda." Coach Heny has developed the basketball program over the last several years and now all that hard work will be passed on to another coach who will undoubtedly take credit for the where the program is now. I find it odd that the High School principal and the Athletic Director, Wormald remain silent in all of this. Way to stand up for members of your faculty and athletic departments! The system has been infected from the superintendent down, and apparently there isn't anyone with the integrity to stand up and defend those who have sacrificed time and effort for the student athletes! This is compounded by a board, voted in by the public, choosing to remain ignorant of the wishes of the majority of the public. Shame on all of you!

  • posted by Too many in same town.

    May 16, 2013 8:16 pm

    In a smaller town it is hard to say the truth as the professional lines are always blurry. Could parents & kids really speak up? The "Heny " web is way bigger than just a sport or the high school.
    Those that came forward need to be respected and the fact was the board was in unison for the vote. Some tough questions unfortunately can't be answered publicly because you will never have people speak up if they will be ratliated against. Kudos to the board for doing the tough job of looking out for all kids.

  • posted by Panther Fan

    May 16, 2013 3:45 pm

    Hey 'Get Rid of Kevin Mitchell' You have voiced a bunch of personal opinions that many would argue for and against. The ONLY point that I will argue with anyone over is about keeping the kids out of this issue. ALL of the kids are innocent victims of this mess that the adults have created. Have some class and leave them - all of them - out of it!!

  • posted by Who should be fired?

    May 16, 2013 3:09 pm

    I question the policy of not discussing personnel issues in public. Was it not the public that instigated Heny's firing. If so then those conversations may have been private (secret) the rest of the public has the right to rebuke those persons and their opinion as not representing the majority. Our elected officials are to represent the majority, right? If Heny's firing is legitimate then should he not be fired from all coaching and probably teaching as well. Why won't the other parties of interest (Mitchell,Wormald,etc) take calls from local media at least to say they have no comment or are preparing them. What are they hiding or from who, or are they awaiting their marching orders from those who instigated Heny's firing. I believe someone/group needs fired or tossed out. I am not convinced, by what has been reported, it should be Coach Heny.

  • posted by Casey

    May 16, 2013 10:21 am

    Absolutely Unbeleivable...

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