Track Club Pleads Cause to Council
At issue was the school district’s denial of the use of second floor hallways for indoor training, which protestors linked to the new administration of Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III. Gallon was present at the council meeting at the governing body’s request to speak on school issues and his impression of Plainfield.
Gallon spoke first, detailing his initiatives such as a strategic plan for the next few years, with elements tied to five goals that he has previously described in four Town Hall meetings and at a State of the District Address. Hired in February, Gallon took charge of the district July 1 amidst a number of personnel and administrative changes.
But when given his chance to speak, “Coach Kevin” Turner told the council, “I love change just as everyone else, but all change is not necessarily good.”
While recognizing the council had no powers over school district issues, Turner insisted, “Sometimes you have to do the right thing.”
In this case, Turner said, it was continuing a program that was keeping kids off the streets, supporting academic achievement and giving young people an opportunity to earn recognition as athletes in local, regional, national and even global competition.
The district’s denial, he said, was stated as being based on liability issues, but he said the group had insurance and had used the premises over the past three years without incident.
Gallon, given a chance to rebut the protest, said, “The commitment to these children is not the question.”
“I support this program and this initiative 150 percent,” Gallon said.
But Gallon went on to link the situation on communication issues.
“We will do right by these children,” he said. “However, let this be a lesson to all of us.”
Gallon said all parties have to do better in communicating and said as he took blame, so must others. He urged the protesters to contact his office and make appointments to meet with appropriate staff to resolve the issue.
“This is not about a denial based on change,” he said.
Although as chief school administrator he has the legal authority to make decisions on day-to-day operations of the schools, Gallon declined to do so on the spot at the council meeting.
“I don’t make decisions through fear and I don’t make decisions under duress,” Gallon said.
City officials voiced support for the cause, while pointing out the council and administration had no direct influence in the outcome.
After the meeting, Board of Education president Bridget Rivers said the board was already in the process of taking care of the situation.
But in an online forum, the group had already urged a further protest at the Nov. 18 school board meeting.
Before the debate, parent Jonathan Anderson said he came out to show support for the track club and what he called “an institution” going back 40 years.
“It’s a tradition,” he said.
The council changed its agenda to let the track club supporters speak just before Bill Amirault, chairman of the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, was to present the group’s recommendations to the council for the FY 2009 budget. A slide show was ready to go, but after the protest when the council sought to resume the presentation, Councilman Rashid Burney, chairman of the Finance Committee, told the council that while waiting his turn to speak, Amirault received a message that his mother-in-law had passed away and so had to leave the meeting.
The council had hoped to finalize the budget by Dec. 3, but the timeline has now changed to include two special meetings, with a vote later in December.