Former Orono girls basketball coach Jess Witham has decided give more details regarding her resignation.
In an email to us she attached a copy of her resignation letter to the school. In that document she says she is concerned about the administration in regards to their handling of the girls basketball program. In particular she believed that certain protocols and procedures were not followed at the end of the season regarding potential parent and player concerns.
She went on to say "they have caused irreparable damage to my relationships with the players on the team and my reputation. For these reasons i feel I can no longer lead the Orono High School girls basketball program effectively." You can view her full statement below.
Now we did speak to RSU 26 superintendent Joanne Harriman regarding the allegations. She says the school is legally unable to comment on any personnel matters.
I also spoke with athletic director Mike Archer, who reiterated that statement while adding they hope to have a new coach in place by the first week of May. He also says he wishes Witham the best in her future endeavors.
FULL WITHAM STATEMENT
April 4, 2015
Re: To be read at the next RSU 26 School Board meeting
Dear Ms. Harriman:
I am resigning from my position as Girls Varsity Basketball Coach at Orono High School effective immediately.
I am concerned about the administration of the girls basketball program, specifically in regard to the Athletic Administrator and the Principal. In my opinion, procedures and protocols in the Co-Curricular Contract were not followed when concerns were brought to the administrators’ attention at the end of the 2014-15 basketball season. Player and parent concerns were handled without any regard to my initial input, and without the opportunity for me to be present for an open, honest discussion. Instead, I found out through phone calls and forwarded emails from caring, respectful parents, who felt I deserved to know what was happening. When I contacted the Athletic Administrator, I was told conflicting stories. I also feel that the conflict of interest with the Principal played a role in why protocol was not followed.
To my knowledge, for the first eight years of my tenure as Girls Varsity Basketball Coach, the school board policies and procedures in the “Parent/Staff Communication Policy” section of the Orono High School Co-Curricular Contract were followed, to ensure protection for all parties. I am not sure what changed, and why the process was not followed this year. Furthermore, I have asked this question to the Athletic Administrator and Principal in multiple emails since I became aware of this situation. They have chosen not to directly answer my question.
After thinking about and processing these happenings over the past few weeks, I have concluded that had the protocols for handling player and parent concerns been followed, the program would have moved forward in a positive direction. Instead, the administrators handling this situation poorly caused it to unnecessarily escalate. I am very disappointed in the administration, and I feel that because of the way they handled this situation, they have caused irreparable damage to my relationships with the players on the team, and my reputation. For these reasons, I feel I can no longer lead the Orono High School girls basketball program effectively. There needs to be accountability, and I would hope this situation would be investigated.
I am a proud alumnus of Orono High School. I thank you for the opportunity to serve the program as Girls Varsity Basketball Coach for the past nine years. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some wonderful young ladies, parents, and staff.
I wish the program nothing but the best.
Cc: Jacob Eckert, RSU 26 School Board Chair