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Basketball coach's dismissal is addressed by School Board

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HARTINGTON — Despite an outpouring of support Monday from several area residents, Nick Haselhorst will no longer be the head boys basketball coach at Hartington-Newcastle High School.

Supt. A.J. Johnson met with Haselhorst earlier this summer and informed him of his decision to relieve him of his coaching duties. Haselhorst has compiled a 124-130 record during his 11-year stint as the Wildcats head coach.

Wausa native Tylor Fincher, who had previously been the head coach at Southern Valley before coming to HNS and working as Haselhost's assistant the past two years, will step in as the new Wildcat head coach.

When Haselhorst was relieved of his coaching duties, his wife, Leigh Haselhorst, resigned as the Lady Wildcats head volleyball coach, leaving the school with another coaching vacancy.

Haselhorst requested to be put on Monday's school board agenda so he would be allowed to air his concerns about his dismissal and the way it was handled.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 40 people attended Monday's meeting.

Prior to the start of public comments, School Board President Jason Dendinger noted that Board policy stated each person is allowed to speak for three minutes, however, he said, "but honestly, the time limit won't be strictly enforced. We want to hear from you."

Haselhorst told Board members he was disappointed with the decision and how it was handled, saying he, "poured so much of his heart, time and effort into building a school culture that we ought to be proud of. I've never complained. I fulfill my obligations, and I've gone above and beyond on the athletic side of things to try and change the mindset around here."

Haselhorst said he was blindsided by the decision, saying he had never been given an evaluation, so he was unaware of any issues.

"My evaluation never happened," Haselhorst said. "Eleven years of service and you can't warn or advise me? I was never alerted of any concerns, so how am I supposed to grow and improve without input. He (Supt. Johnson) has never once given me criticism or advisement on any situation involving basketball."

Haselhorst said he was also concerned that the guidelines outlined in the school handbook were not followed, noting that the handbook states good communication is the key to resolving misunderstandings.

"When parents or students came to you with concerns, did you document them?" Haselhorst asked.

Three parents spoke to the Board about Haselhorst's ousting.

Brice Grutsch noted he felt the situation should have been handled better.

An evaluation is critical to the success of any coach or teacher, he said.

Without an evaluation, people just don't know where they stand, he noted.

"I asked him (Haselhorst) how often did he get evaluated, and he said he 'didn't know if I do get evaluated.' That's probably an issue. I asked him how often the administration came to him to find out how things are going, and he said 'that doesn't happen.' I think that's probably a problem. Coaches need support from the administration," Grutsch said.

Janeice Sudbeck told the board she was going to, "just rip the Band-Aid off," and express her concerns about Haselhorst and how some players didn't enjoy the sport anymore with him as the head coach. After the public input, no action was taken and the board continued on with the rest of its meeting.

Basketball wasn't the only sport on Monday's agenda.

The Board also heard a request Monday from Wynot Public Schools to include that school in the cross country co-op between Hartington-Newcastle and Cedar Catholic. Supt. Johnson said such an alliance would not push the program up a class.

However, the board's athletic committee was concerned that the new co-op might hinder Hartington students' chances of being able to compete. Dendinger made a motion to accept Wynot into the cross country co-op, but the motion died for the lack of a second.

The Board also approved the sale Monday of several excess Chromebooks. Grant funding allowed the school to purchase new Chromebooks for the elementary a year ago. They will be selling old ones for $50 each.