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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 25 2013

Jim Jonas supporters pack boardroom

WEST FARGO – Sup-porters of Jim Jonas, who was ousted as a West Fargo High School football and basketball coach, packed the School District’s boardroom Monday but failed to draw the big overflow crowds they had hoped would sway School Board members to let Jonas re-turn to the sidelines.

More than 30 Jonas backers, many wearing Justice for Jonas T-shirts, filled the boardroom.

In an unusual move, a West Fargo police officer was on hand for the meeting.

But the police presence was unneeded, as Jonas’ supporters sat quietly as two former Packer student-athletes addressed the board.

Brent Tehven, a 2000 West Fargo graduate praised Jonas’ work.

“I feel it is important at this time we recognize the positive impact of Jim Jonas, not only as a coach or a teacher but (as) a leader in our community. My goal is our Packer community can begin to move forward and also begin a process to develop changes that will help prevent the events of the last few weeks from recur-ring,” Tehven said.

Tehven presented a petition in support of Jonas with 1,244 signatures to the board.

Tehven said Jonas had a hand in many of the accolades collected by Packer teams and athletes in 23 years on the sidelines, including coaching seven state championship teams and 30 Eastern Dakota Conference championship teams.

“Jim has made mistakes, and he has acknowledged them. This is not just about Jim as there are others that made mistakes as well. We need more transparency and communication within the district in order to prevent issues like this from reaching this point,” Tehven said.”

Tehven asked that his comments be included in Jonas’ personnel file.

Brandon Laufenberg said Jonas was a mentor for him through high school.

“I don’t know which road I would have took if it wasn’t for him,” Laufenberg told the board. “He was always there for me on and off the field.”

Board president Kay Kiefer said board members would not debate or discuss personnel issues.

Kiefer added that hiring and firing coaches is the job of the district’s administrators, led by Superintendent David Flowers.

“The board is committed to the continued improvement of processes related to personnel issues,” Kiefer said. “We recognize that every coach can choose to improve, if given the opportunity, time and peer guidance to do so.”

Flowers said there is a commitment to improving coaching in West Fargo, but the improvements must be systemic.

“There is no quick fix,” he said.

“Things broke down a bit. We have a culture where not all parents have confidence in the system,” Flowers said, adding that while Jonas has his sup-porters, “there are opposing views” on his behavior.

On Nov. 8, Jonas was first notified he was being stripped of his football and basketball coaching duties.

District officials said in a three-page written reprimand placed in his file Friday that the decision was not the result of a single incident but was borne of Jonas’ long-time mercurial and sometimes profane behavior on the sidelines, as well as run-ins with students and parents over classroom issues.

The district said there were more than 25 incidents over the years, including one that led to a seven-year suspension of Jonas’ basketball coaching duties from 1995 to 2002.

Tim Scully, a West Fargo Education Association contract negotiator and Jonas supporter, said steps will be taken “so we can avoid these kinds of things in the future. …

“He (Jonas) did make some mistakes, but let’s move forward. At the end of the day, Jim will make the changes he needs to make,” Scully said.

Scully said Jonas was not at the meeting because he needed to be at the high school’s parent-teacher conferences.

In other business, the board voted 6-0 to seat Allan Skramstad, a retired University of North Dakota aviation instructor, as the replacement on the board for Angela Korsmo, who recently resigned.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583