Runners who are too eager to start the race might risk receiving a false start, which has been extrapolated into the common phrase “jumping the gun,” referring to a runner jumping off their blocks before the starting gun has fired.
Regarding the recent story that ran in the Tuesday edition of this paper, we must be optimistic that the Warwick School Committee’s decision to not re-appoint Thomas Dolce to his long-held position as head coach of the girls’ track team will result in a positive learning experience about transparency and due process, in addition to avoiding jumping the gun on issues before all facts are gathered.
First off, we want to be clear that as of this column, the information we possess at this moment suggests that Mr. Dolce will indeed be re-appointed to his position as of the next school committee meeting on March 12. This is positive because it indicates that Chairwoman Karen Bachus possesses the ever-important ability to realize when she has gone a step too far.
However, we would be remiss to not use this episode as a textbook example of why protocols exist for handling these types of situations – and that while those protocols ultimately proved to be effective, it shouldn’t have taken significant public pressure in order for that to be accomplished.
For Ms. Bachus to specifically remove Mr. Dolce’s name from the long list of re-appointments for coaching positions indicates that there had to have been a reason for doing so. However, that reason was never provided to the man himself, and he only learned of the impending decision as it was occurring.
To be fair, it is the school committee’s prerogative to act in a way that they deem appropriate, especially when considering the appointment of coaching positions that are decided annually. However, we would argue it is quite unprofessional and unnecessarily harsh to so abruptly end the tenure of a 45-year veteran coach who has never been held in a negative spotlight throughout that career.
Both Ms. Bachus and Judith Cobden, the vice chair, continuously emphasize the importance of establishing good working relationships, fostering mutual respect between school faculty and the administration, and contributing to a generalized atmosphere of transparency and fairness within the district. Nothing about the way this situation was handled reflected any of those aspirations.
Mr. Dolce was unceremoniously removed from his long-standing position without good reason – as evidenced by the fact that he will most likely be re-appointed next meeting anyways, so we must ask what was it that caused the chairwoman to hit the eject button on such a loyal employee so quickly? We haven’t been told any reasons to warrant it, nor have we heard anything outside of hearsay or third-party accounts.
Mr. Dolce, himself, said he learned somebody had made an anonymous complaint against him, but that person has not come forward with their story, nor has anybody come forward with anything but stories that reinforce Dolce’s position as a good coach and person. We worry about the implications where a single, uncorroborated complaint can result in somebody of Mr. Dolce’s resume to be immediately be dismissed and left in the dark about why such a decision was made.
At the very least, if there was a legitimate complaint against Mr. Dolce in the first place, he should have been informed of the committee’s intentions and been given a chance to defend himself. Even if the decision remained the same, it would have shown a legitimate desire from the beginning to get to the truth, rather than a knee-jerk response to believe an anonymous complainant over a coach with nearly half a century of demonstrated dedication to the district.
Further, we feel as though the decision to take away Mr. Dolce’s head coaching position is one that might have flown totally under the radar and may have been upheld if not for the tremendous outpouring of support that he received and the pressure that was put on the chairwoman and vice chair to reconsider their action – in addition to Mr. Dolce’s protesting of the decision as well.
We are encouraged that the school committee members who set this path in motion appear to be willing to concede that they may have miscalculated, but we implore them to use this as a learning experience regarding practicing what they have so often preached in regards to good communication practices and fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect.