The Charlotte Public Schools Board of Education called a special meeting for Thursday, Jan. 14 to discuss personnel issues, said acting board president Mike Bruce. Bruce declined to discuss specifics and said most of the discussion would take place in closed session.
Board members and CPS administration had taken a lot of criticism leading up to the meeting for their recent handling of former Charlotte High School varsity basketball coach, Steve Ernst.
Ernst received his second Individual Development Plan (IDP) in as many years from Superintendent Mark Rosekrans on Wednesday, Jan. 6 for receiving his first technical foul of the season (his sixth as Charlotte coach) following a Jan. 5 home win over rival Eaton Rapids. The IDP stated in part: “technical fouls are not tolerated. Failure to follow this plan, or subsequent technical fouls earned, may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the coaching position.”
Ernst submitted his resignation Monday, Jan. 11, just six games into his second season as Charlotte’s coach, after he said he was ordered to attend a “fact-finding” meeting that Monday afternoon or face suspension.
At that point, Ernst said he had had enough.
“This is the last thing I wanted,” Ernst said Wednesday, Jan. 13. “It hurts the kids.”
Ernst said he met with Rosekrans and Charlotte High School principal Bill Barnes on Tuesday, Jan. 12 regarding his tenure as coach.
“It was a good meeting,” Ernst said Wednesday morning. “Rosekrans is going to talk to the board’s HR sub-committee to see if there is any interest in me coming back.”
Shane Gonser, who was elected school board president at the opening of Monday’s meeting, resigned from the board Wednesday morning, and said that comments made at the Jan. 11 meeting and on social media was affecting his family.
“I’m a dad first,” Gonser said. “My number one concern is the safety and welfare of my family. So I removed myself from the situation. Everything being said was a blanket statement about the board, of which I was a part. My kids see that and they have to answer questions about what I’m going to do. They should be able to go to school without having to deal with that.”
The board has heard plenty of support for bringing Ernst back from community members, most of which began at the regular school board meeting held Monday, Jan. 11. The meeting was moved to the 300-seat lecture room to accommodate the large crowd that included close to two hours of public comment in support of Ernst being reinstated as head coach. Many supporters went as far as demanding the school board take steps to reinstate Ernst.
“I think the message you guys are sending us by giving coach such a hard time, you guys know coach isn’t patient, you knew he would resign if you kept poking and prodding him; coach isn’t going to be pushed around,” said varsity basketball senior Collin Garn, addressing the board and superintendent Rosekrans at the Jan. 11 meeting. “I really think you guys failed us.”
Garn and his teammates showed their support for Ernst the following day, holding a sit-in at CPS central office in hopes of getting a meeting with Rosekrans. Garn was a guest on the Schuiling Report radio show on The Team 92.1 FM on Wednesday and told host Ryan Schuiling he was unsure if the team would take the floor for its home game against Pennfield on Friday, Jan. 15.
“We’re kind of just hoping the board would have this figured out before then,” Garn told Schuiling. “It’s up in the air whether or not we’d even play Friday.
“We know it’s not right and the whole community knows this is wrong,” Garn said of the administration’s handling of Ernst.
A Facebook group — Charlotte Students, Alumni, and Community Members in Support of Coach Ernst formed Tuesday, Jan. 12 and by Thursday afternoon included close to 1,000 members (some added by the administrator). Several members continued to voice their support through Thursday afternoon, calling for as many community members as possible to attend the Thursday meeting in a show of support for the coach.
The board meeting was held after deadline to make this week’s edition of The County Journal.