"Funny how (Superintendent Gary) Bloom thinks he's unfit to be a coach, but nevertheless offered a position of assistant coach," said Lori Quick, one of dozens of parents who are incensed over the firing of a first-year coach supported by most of the team and parents.
The firing has created a heated rift between baseball parents and the school district administration, headed by Gary Bloom. Bloom, they said, refused to listen to their side of the story and acted to fire the popular coach as a result of complaints by the parent of one player who is a school principal in another district and a friend of Bloom's. Bloom admitted to talking to the parent, but said he treated her as any other person with a complaint.
At the last school board meeting, baseball parents praised Arnott, 38, a former Santa Cruz High and Cabrillo College player who also played in the minor leagues. He was a coach with contacts who could help their children get scholarships at colleges, they said. He also spent $3,000 of his own money fixing up the neglected baseball field.
After saying the decision was final, City Schools Superintendent Bloom offered Arnott a job as assistant coach at a meeting August 27, something Arnott declined. As part of an offer, Bloom said that the coach would have to attend positive coaching clinics, agree not to use profanity, create a climate with no bullying and make a public statement admitting his wrongdoings.
Arnott asked to be returned as head coach. He said he would make a statement "that this incident was a result of mutual miscommunications. I will acknowledge that I made mistakes and that I fully agree to a probationary term and gladly agree to the oversight the district wants over the program. I will say that the district and I will work together to bring back the long and proud tradition of SCHS baseball."
Parents plan to again present their case to the school board at its Sept. 11 meeting, but meanwhile, a war of angry words has heated up in emails among board members, parents and administrators.
Both sides agreed that Arnott's firing violated the district's policies, according to minutes of the Aug. 27 meeting with administrators and the coach.
Under the rules when there is a complaint against an employee there must be a written complaint and the employee is supposed to be notified and have a chance to work with his supervisor. None of this was done.
"We further agreed that the complaining parent went directly to the district superintendent who did not address the complaint with me as the rules required," Arnott wrote in a summary of the meeting with Bloom.
During the meeting Arnott was told he was fired because of his use of profanity and an email he sent to parents asking them not to be so negative. He wrote a second letter apologizing for that. He said these were rookie mistakes of a first-time coach.
Two parents whose children weren't getting enough playing time and were offended by Arnott's profanity complained to Bloom.
Some parents complained that Bloom's action in helping a friend appeared to be a conflict of interest, however board members came to his defense in emails.
"Simply knowing and working with someone, or even being good friends (and in my case, relatives!), cannot be construed in itself as a conflict of interest," wrote Sheila Coonerty, whose relatives include her father, County Supervisor Neal Coonerty and brother, the former mayor of Santa Cruz, Ryan Coonerty.
"If that were the case, having worked in the schools and in the city, I couldn't listen to half of the teachers, many staff, the city council, the board of supervisors, the union members, my neighbors and quite a few of you!
"Of course you have a right to be concerned and to speak up if you feel that you are not being listened to or treated with respect in all of this. I just think that there is a difference between the administration's role of listening to folks in this community, many of whom they may know well, and walking into a conflict of interest. I could not do my job well if I was not allowed to listen to all of my constituents with the same respect, whether they know me or not. I cannot imagine a good superintendent who does not network and keep all ears open."
However, parent Lori Quick fired back, the action against the coach was taken without consulting dozens of other parents.
"Please understand our concern, which is that the voice of Mr. Bloom's friend and colleague is being heard to the exclusion of everyone else's, and is being attributed a level of credibility that is not necessarily deserved."
She added: "We cannot understand how it can be just, or beneficial, or even wise, for a school district to fire a dedicated, eminently qualified coach at the behest of a very tiny minority when EVERYONE ELSE affected by the decision is incredibly, strongly opposed. We cannot understand how this can even remotely be considered responsive to the community.
"So please understand our anger and frustration. Over 500 people have signed the petition to have him reinstated. People are giving up a great deal of free time to try to get someone to listen to us - REALLY listen to us - instead of having your minds made up and holding a pro forma hearing that means nothing."