Clear Fork basketball coach rehired after contentious board meeting

BELLVILLE — Clear Fork Valley School board members, by a vote of 3-2, approved a one-year supplemental contract for varsity basketball coach Steven Bechtel at last week’s meeting after a long, contentious meeting where area residents voiced their concerns about coaching operations.

The discussion about rehiring Bechtel came in a long meeting headlined by representatives of the Garmann Miller architectural firm, which presented detailed drawings of the two new elementary buildings in Bellville and Butler.

Architect Mandy Niekamp with Garmann Miller and her helper, Katie Yinger, displayed several drawings of various views of the new Butler and Bellville buildings. Both buildings will be trimmed in green, the Clear Fork color.

The board’s agenda contained routine listings of staff up for renewal of employment agreements.

The item concerning Bechtel was listed separately, and the handling of that matter took about three hours.

Residents were asked if they wanted to speak before an executive session of the board and close to 30 people volunteered. People wishing to voice their opinions formed a line before being allowed to go into the teacher’s lounge so they could give their three-minute accounts of what they felt had happened at the school.

When board members came out of the executive session, board president Jim DeSanto said the board was trying to give “due diligence” to concerns people had voiced about Bechtel.

DeSanto asked for discussion on the motion to vote for Bechtel’s re-hiring, and no one volunteered an opinion.

One yes vote was cast without comment by member Dan Freund. Member Jason Snyder cast a yes vote after saying it was a “tough decision,” and that he had gone back and forth on the matter.

Member Jim Klenk voted yes, but read a statement in which he said the administration hires personnel. He said there should be a mid-year review on the matter.

Members Carl Gonzalez and DeSanto cast the two no votes.

The commons area at Clear Fork middle and high schools was filled with people following board activities.

After the board took its vote, a group of people gathered outside the commons area and reported what they had said to board members in executive session.

Skip Hursh, with the Clear Fork Boosters Club, said he told the board “two of you guys are wasting my time” because he said he knew who would be casting yes votes. He and two other residents, Chris Beer and Matt Endicott, said they couldn’t condone some of the activities of Bechtel, in which he used profane language when talking about “kids lacking common sense.”

Holly Endicott said her son had quit basketball last year, because he was trying to “make a point.”

Other basketball players reportedly had quit, or decided to stop playing before the season began.

Beer said he believes there is “integrity” in basketball and the “last thing you want to happen” is to “tear down kids and teachers.”

Clear Fork superintendent Janice Wyckoff said she had notified Bechtel his contract would not be renewed, but that she was “given a directive” and “shenanigans” occurred. The item was placed back on the agenda.

A group of people remained in the commons room school during the executive session, and many of them were supporters of Bechtel.