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Willmar, Minn., School Board moves to end contract of volleyball coach

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board voted not to renew the contract of varsity volleyball coach Terrin DeBoer Monday.

The board closed its meeting for about 45 minutes before adopting a resolution to terminate DeBoer. However, the board did not appear to follow the provisions of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law in closing the meeting.

Reasons for DeBoer's termination were not made clear at the meeting. DeBoer just finished her third season as coach of the Cardinals. Her teams finished 18-18 in conference matches in that time. This year's team ended its season in late October and finished 10-12 overall.

About 25 people attended the meeting in support of DeBoer. The group was made up of family members, students, parents and her coaching colleagues. DeBoer was at the meeting but declined to make a comment.

Six people spoke about DeBoer and her job. Parents talked about the positive impact she's had on their daughters and the amount of time she's spent with her players.

Parent Ron Lippert, who has had two daughters play for DeBoer, said he knew some people were upset about playing time and positions, but he had not been able to learn more about the reason for the firing.

Randy Post of Prinsburg, DeBoer's father, read a letter sent to him by a volunteer coach for DeBoer's team. The letter referred to "drama outside the team" and praised the players and coaches for staying focused on the game.

"Terrin has a passion about volleyball," he said, and he called her "very intense and competitive."

Jana Peterson, a member of the volleyball coaching staff, read a letter signed by her and two other coaches. DeBoer has made the athletes her top priority and has been a positive role model for them, she said.

The last person to speak to the board was player Emily Minnick, who cried as she talked about what the coach has meant to her. Minnick said DeBoer believed in her, told her she was good enough to play at the college level and helped her improve her game.

"I support every decision she has made," Minnick said, and she asked the board to reconsider terminating her

The procedure for dismissing DeBoer was a board resolution to not renew her coaching contract, and it was recommended by the school administration. When Chairman Wayne Lenzmeier asked for a motion on the resolution, he was met with silence.

Board members asked if they could discuss the issue more. Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said DeBoer would have the ability to request a hearing on the termination within 14 days.

The board finally tabled the resolution until later in the meeting, while Human Resources Director Liz Fischer researched whether the board could close a meeting to discuss the situation.

Fischer said the board could legally close the meeting to evaluate DeBoer under Chapter 13D, subdivision 5, of the Open Meeting Law. The chapter of the law cited says such a meeting may be open at the request of the person being evaluated, but DeBoer was not given that option Monday. The meetings are also to be recorded and kept available for three years.

The law states that the board shall summarize the evaluation at its next open meeting.

After the closed meeting, board members did introduce the resolution, but Lenzmeier had to second it when no one else would.

"This allows the process to continue," said board member Sandi Unger.

The vote was 5-to-1, with one board members absent. Voting in favor were Linda Mathiasen, Eric Roberts, Unger, Dan Croonquist and Lenzmeier. Nathan Streed voted against it. He wouldn't comment on his vote after the meeting.

After the meeting, Kjergaard said DeBoer has up to 14 days to request a hearing on the termination, and the board has up to 10 days after that to schedule a hearing. It may be open or closed at DeBoer's request.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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