Board fails to overturn decision to fire coach

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
One of the most contentious issues to come before the Rogers City Area Schools board of education in recent history came to an end Monday with a 5-1 vote to uphold the termination of varsity wrestling coach Pat Lamb.
Lamb was released from his duties as coach and custodian in March after taking the varsity jacket of a wrestler and placing it in the dumpster at the school. He was let go during a meeting with interim superintendent Lee Sandy in early March.

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Following more than 30 minutes of comments from Lamb’s supporters and his attorney Jeremiah Buffalo Wirgau, the board heard a brief statement from superintendent David O’Bryant during the hearing to consider reinstatement. He said Lamb took multiple steps “planning out this action and throwing away a piece of property, not just any piece of property, a varsity letter jacket…I don’t believe there was one moment of lapse of judgement, but several poor decisions, and bad decisions made, that led to that.”
O’Bryant said a lot was said in the newspaper, on social media, as well as board meetings. “We don’t lay blame on somebody else, we don’t lay blame on a student, and I think that happened at the beginning, and it may be because of the sensitivity of the issue and the feelings for Mr. Lamb. It is not something we can do as educators. It is not something we can condone.”
During follow-up comments, Wirgau said, “Coach Pat was distraught over his inability to work with this student.” Wirgau also said Lamb took full responsibility and sent a letter of apology to the student.
“What I did was stupid,” said Lamb, when board president John Krajenta asked if there was another way the situation could have been handled. “It was a stupid mistake.”
There were no further comments by board members before board member Cory Budnick motioned to uphold the termination. It was seconded by Frank Andrews. Ivy Cook was the lone “no” vote. Don Kromer did not attend due to health reasons. After the meeting, Budnick said she made the motion to follow Sandy’s original  recommendation.
“I’m incredibly disheartened by the board’s decision,” said Wirgau in an e-mail response Tuesday morning. “The Hurons have lost far more than a wrestling coach and will not be able to find an equal replacement.
“I had sincerely hoped that the board could rectify the situation and put an end to the chain of bad decisions. Our community clearly wanted a different result and our elected representatives had the power to change this situation for the better.  However, the board, felt otherwise and allowed the damage to the school and community to continue.  Though I cannot foresee a future in which the Hurons fully recover from this, I sincerely hope I am wrong.”

(Complete version of this story is in the July 14, 2106 edition of the Presque Isle County Advance. Call us at 989-734-2105 to subscribe)