Staff from Maple Grove Senior High School and District 279 representatives are looking to create an action plan to move forward from an incident that left 13 boys hockey players from the school suspended from game play and the hockey coach placed on administrative leave with pay from his coaching responsibility on Jan. 17.
A meeting with the media Jan. 24, allowed the school and district to show how it will move forward to promote positive leadership and set a higher standard of expectations for student athletes. Speaking during the meeting were MGSH boys hockey coach Gary Stefano, MGSH Principal Sara Vernig and Osseo School District Administrator in charge of athletics Wendy Loberg.
THOUGHTS OF SPEAKERS
Although no one was allowed to speak about exactly what happened, due to data privacy laws, each speaker was disappointed in the actions of a few student athletes.
Coach Stefano, head boys hockey coach for the past 17 years spoke first. “I take responsibility for teaching and holding students accountable for meeting our high expectations for behavior,” he said. “I can’t give you details or confirm or deny any rumors you have heard about the incident that took place off campus and involved some members of the hockey team. I want to be clear this behavior is unacceptable.”
He added that during is 32 years of coaching boys and girls high school sports, this incident has been the worst experience he has to deal with.
Next to speak was Principal Vernig. She said there are almost 1,700 students in the school, some of whom “don’t meet our expectations.”
She added, “Even though we are teaching and learning organization, we use this as an opportunity to help them learn from their mistakes and avoid making mistakes in the future. Helping them learn from their mistakes … does not mean that they aren’t held accountable for their actions.”
Vernig said she applied consequences and the school is now focused on moving forward. This incident will be used as a learning tool.
Loberg added there are a lot of outstanding leaders in the kids at MGSH. “The behavior a few student athletes does not speak for all,” she said.
She said the plan was developed after concerns of the students, which will allow the school and district to go deeper in developing character and integrity.
Vernig stated, “I tell you personally, it’s been very devastating and disappointing … I have to remember too, kids make dumb decisions sometimes. And the bottom line is that we have to use it as a way to help teach them and prepare them for the future, so they aren’t making similar mistakes.”
Moving forward the school and district hope to create an action plan with the input of MGSH staff and coaches. This plan will promote positive leadership in all athletics and activities at the school. It will also support coaches as they address future concerns identified among some student athletes.
Parts of the plan include:
• Coaches supporting one another and be aware of expectations set forth in each sport
• Coaching staff will continue to identify ways to encourage positive behavior and interactions among student athletes and adults
• Staff will prove ongoing learning opportunities in the areas of character, respect and leadership development
• MGSH will collect anonymous survey data from students at the end of the season to assess leadership, sportsmanship and the goals of the program
• Hockey coach Stefano will work with his team to engage students in developing and reinforcing a code of honor, created and owned by the students themselves, that will help athletes in the hockey program hold each other to higher expectations
Winter sport coaches will first gather input from team captains on ways to help develop leadership within all sports.
“My coaching staff and I will be working to identify additional ways to address sportsmanship, promote leadership and promote positive adult behavior as well,” Stefano said. “I’m going to work with our team to engage students in developing and enforcing a code of honor, created and owned by the students themselves.”
Loberg said after the winter coaches and athletes, all coaches will work together. “We absolutely have to come to an agreement as what exactly do we expect and are we sure we have taught it to a level that all students are competent in those expectations,” she added.
These action plan meetings will begin with the coaches with next few weeks.