SRC Board Says No to Plante Coaching
At 6pm on Monday the Salmon River board room was packed for the SRC Board of Education meeting with people wanting to speak and hear the result of a vote that, with a yes, would amend the Feb. 20, 2008 resolution to strike the part of the resolution that bars William Plante from all future coaching positions in the district.
Many might wonder, why is this coming up now? The SRC Board of Education meeting agenda read that in an earlier meeting “Trustee Peter Ghostlaw requested, and Trustee Roger Lapage Supported, to add the resolution to the next meeting…” It may be important to note that Ghostlaw and Lapage are the newest members of the board, winning their seats this past May.
The meeting started with public comments, which usually only 10 minutes are designated for. However, with such a large crowd and 14 people signed up to speak, it was certain to go over, and it did. But when Board President Christopher Nye attempted to end public comment before everyone had a chance to speak, already well over 10 minutes, Minerva White stood up and said, “I want to speak” and the board passed a motion to extend the public comment period. Minerva added, “That’s what I came here to do,” and voiced her opposition for Plante’s return to coaching.
Overall those that supported and opposed Plante were even. Three Tribal Officials spoke during public comment period, all voicing disapproval of Plante coaching again.
Chief Ron Lafrance said, “There’s no doubt he was a hell of a coach, but the fact is he said what he said.” He told the board they need to refocus on what their job is; to promote and protect the children of the school.
Chief Beverly Cook mentioned that there are Federal rules and regulations against bullying children in school. She brought up the effect this may have on players as adults asking, “is that how we teach them to raise their children?”
Sub-Chief Michael Conners considered Plante’s supporters’ points that he was a good gym teacher and coach, but his question was, “Is it okay to say those things to a 14 year old?”
Other opponents included Jim Ransom who said he was “appalled” to see this issue come up. He noted that society today has zero tolerance for this type of behavior and the Rutgers coach has shown us that. Ransom said, “He should have been fired, period.”
Two former players under Plante spoke on his behalf. Garrett Cree said he “enjoyed every minute of playing for Bill Plante.” Cree said the ultimate goal was to win and that was the way he did it. Ben Deluca was team captain under Plante, which he implied made the coach even harder on him. But he told of the vigorous training he had endured for his career and likened Plante’s style to it saying “it tears you down to build you up stronger.”
One of Plante’s current coworkers Jim Barnes echoed their sentiments. He said, “It’s a locker room,” suggesting that’s what happens in locker rooms. About working with Plante, Barnes said that “Bill Plante has been nothing but positive since day one.”
At the end of the meeting executive session was called, which meant the crowd had to clear the room, however Plante was invited to stay. The board and Plante were in quite sometime before Plante came out, and then the board stayed locked in for another few minutes before calling the crowd back.
Jane Collins began and made it very clear before the vote took place that she does not want Mr. Plante to coach for Salmon River. After she spoke Board President Christopher Nye began explaining that the resolution should be amended and that “people make mistakes, and he believes in second chances” and finally he poised the question, “does the punishment fit the crime?” Nye pointed out that a yes vote would not mean that Plante would coach, it simply meant he would have the ability to be appointed to coach. Earlier in the meeting the Winter Coaches had already been approved, however the girl’s varsity hockey team was without a coach on Monday night.
Over two hours later it was time for the vote and ended in a tie with 4-4 and 1 abstained, and five is needed to pass. Those who voted yes were Christopher Nye – President, Peter Ghostlaw, Roger Lapage and Michael Sisto. Those who voted no were Greg Cunningham - Vice President, Linda Durant, Matthew Mainville and Sheila Marshall. Robert Durant abstained.
After the meeting, when asked why he didn’t address the crowd, Plante said he spoke to the board (in executive session) and he also said he thought the people that spoke for him were very good. When asked if he would try again Plante simply shrugged his shoulders.
Christopher Nye said there was “no winning tonight, it was split pretty evenly and everyone was very passionate.” But he likened the meeting to a Salem witch trial. If Plante wanted to coach he could go anywhere, but he stays at Salmon River. He stays at Salmon River because he loves the culture. Nye mentioned that Plante currently coaches an all-Aboriginal team and there is no way he was racist.
On Tuesday additional comments were sought, but Plante did not return a request for comment. Board vice president Greg Cunningham and board member Matthew Mainville, who voted against Plante’s reinstatement, did not return phone calls seeking comment, but Christopher Nye did comment.
The following is from board president Christopher Nye:
“I have felt for a long time, right from the onset, for this witch hunt against Bill that Superintendent (Jane) Collins was against him … this was a personal vendetta.”
According to Nye, other coaches behaved in a similar fashion but “She was fixated on Bill … maybe because when she said ‘jump’ he didn’t say ‘how high’?”
Nye cites issues with the hockey program since his departure. He says arena participation is down and team morale is down.
“The idea that he’s racist, it’s offensive. It couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Nye says the comment about “a bunch of f***ing Indians, Native Americans, whatever you want to f***ing be called” was taken out of context. Nye says Plante was correcting himself and the profanity was in the sentence because he was swearing so much.
Nye says the comment about the black player was also out of context. Had the transcriber been able to hear the whole conversation, he was telling a story about how he was adopted and rose above the challenge of living life not knowing his birth parents.
Nye believes some board members who voted against Plante’s reinstatement did so because they were intimidated by Mohawk Education Committee president Jim Ransom’s public comment prior to the meeting where he threatened to sue individual board members for all they are worth should Plante be voted back.
Nye also accused Tribal Council of political opportunism in coming out so strongly against Plante.
Story contributed to by Andy Gardner