August 04, 2020
Sports Column

Webb snub left board powerless

The only thing more ludicrous than Mike Webb not having his contract renewed as girls basketball coach at Hampden Academy is the process in which the contract was not renewed.

The SAD 22 board of directors, the elected members who establish school policy for the towns of Hampden, Winterport and Newburgh, never received the chance to vote on Webb’s contract because his nomination was not given to the board by superintendent Rick Lyons.

This seems to be a practice in how a publicly elected body is choosing not to exercise democracy and a case of a superintendent yielding too much power. The superintendent, who is not an elected official, is supposed to carry out the policy of the elected body. He is an employee of the school district and his collective bosses are the members of the school board.

This, however, does not seem to be the case in Hampden.

Webb was recommended for contract renewal by the two people who were his direct supervisors and had the most opportunities to evaluate his job performance: athletic director Tim Reed and principal Katie Donovan, both of whom have since left the school district. Instead, Lyons chose to ignore the recommendations and did not pass Webb’s nomination on to the board of directors’ athletic committee.

Webb and the taxpayers of SAD 22 deserved a much better process. If Lyons has reasons for not supporting Webb, then they should be discussed in a public forum before the school board. He shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the old catch-all of it being unlawful to discuss a personnel matter in public.

It should be Webb’s right and the rights of the taxpayers who pay Webb’s and Lyons’ salaries to have this issue aired in a public forum. Without that, the public is left to speculate on what the reasons are for Webb’s dismissal such as players being cut and lack of playing time.

Whether the voting public of SAD 22 agrees with Webb’s coaching style, several things about him seem clear. He was committed to the program, had already logged lots of hours into building up the program, and was willing to put in more dedicated service. Those factors alone seem to be a powerful case for contract renewal.

Coupled with the program’s success under Webb, 31-11 in two seasons with two tournament wins, and the case for contract renewal is even more powerful.

Some, possibly Lyons, may be expecting too much from Webb. Those who expect Webb or any coach to objectively cut players and be able to equally juggle playing time are being unrealistic. A coach is human, not a computer, he or she is going to have personal preferences to what player may best fit into their program and help it succeed.

Coaches these days are under a microscope and are too often being asked to play the role of a juggler on a tightrope as they face the unfair balancing act of trying to keep players, parents, and administrators happy while also trying to have their team win.

Given these demands, it is only right that Webb be given a fair process and the opportunity to keep his job. He may reapply for it.

This gives the SAD 22 board of directors not only another chance to show their taxpayers that they are in charge of the district, but gives them a chance to exercise democracy. In an open forum, with their votes cast before the public, they can decide whether Mike Webb should be the Hampden Academy girls basketball coach.

Sports editor Joe McLaughlin can be reached a 990-8229, 1-800-310-8600 or

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