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Bingham Files Complaint Against HUSD Superintendent, HHS Principal

Healdsburg High boys tennis team, parents rally Wednesday in support of fired tennis coach Christine Mooney.

 

Healdsburg High athletics continued to come under attack Wednesday with news that fired Athletic Director and Head Track Coach Jenean Bingham has lodged a formal complaint against HHS Principal Chris Vanden Heuvel and Healdsburg Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Harding.

At the same time, Healdsburg High boys tennis team members and their parents rallied at Wednesday's HUSD board meeting in support of fired Head Tennis Coach Christine Mooney.

"I have a real concern about what's going on here," former HHS Head Basketball Coach Greg Costa told the HUSD board Wednesday. Costa, who coached at HHS for 12 years, said he heard about the unrest after last month's board meeting and decided he had to speak out publicly.

"I hope you can fix this," Costa added. "I think we're losing some really good people."

He said he had worked with three athletic directors -- including Bingham -- over his tenure, and that "all three held to the highest standards," Costa said.

Costa was the second former HHS head coach to come out of retirement to testify on the issue. Last month, former Head Football Coach Tom Kirkpatrick also spoke out strongly in favor of Bingham and against her treatment by Healdsburg school officials.

Kirkpatrick was present again at Wednesday's board meeting but did not take the podium this time.

Bingham, who declined specific comment on the nature of the complaint, saying that she "was following strict orders" set forth in the school's personnel procedures.

"But I can say that, in the bigger picture, I'm trying to shed light about the process that's being followed [in athletics decisions and staffing]," she said. "I'm just going to wait and see how they respond."

She attended Wednesday's meeting but did not speak at the podium.

HUSD Board President Genevieve Llerena announced the receipt of the complaint to the approximately 60 people in attendance Wednesday, but she said there would be no public discussion about it.

"Our board has authorized us to retain an independent investigator to investigate the complaint,"  Llerena said. "Any discussion about the complaint will be done in closed session.

"That is the only way the board has the ability to take further action," Llerena added. "We're going to do things professionally."

Barbara Pinney, president of the Healdsburg Area Teachers Association, said the union is supporting Bingham and is helping her with the complaint process.

"I think she's receiving a tremendous amount of support from the public," Pinney said. "We're definitely supporting her."

Bingham said she had not hired private legal counsel, but was "waiting for the school board to let us know what they are planning to do," she said.

Mooney, meanwhie, appeared at the board meeting and gave an emotional farewell to her team members.

"My goal was to develop a vision of the game, and to foster a love of the sport -- all with integrity and honesty," she said. "I think I've done the job I set out to do."

She expressed appreciation for Bingham's support over the last four years that Mooney has been coach.

"I was hired four years ago, two weeks into the season, with no real experience or training," she said.

"I relied heavily on Jenean Bingham, as both my mentor and my boss," Mooney said. "Every defeat, I reviewed with Jenean, and every victory, I reviewed with Jenean."

She said she will miss the interaction with the team, which she said "started out to be just teaching tennis, but it became so much more," she said, her voice catching slightly.

Matthew Lohden, whose son Lukas is a tennis team member, said he was concerned about the loss of Mooney and of assistant tennis coach Val Cronin, who was also fired.

"I was enthusiastic about the success that Christine had had," said Lohden, adding that he met with Harding earlier Wednesday to express his concerns. "I'd like to ensure that we have a strong tennis program going forward."

HHS has re-hired former Head Tennis Coach Ken Haun to replace Mooney. Haun was fired from the job about four years ago, according to school sources.

Lohden said he didn't understand why the school was rehiring someone who had been let go before to replace someone who he thought was quite popular and successful.

"The sad thing is, the kids are saying they're not sure they want to play tennis in the spring," Lohden said.

"I've been wronged," Jack Wanke, a tennis team member for the past two years, told the HUSD board. "She [Mooney] was one of the best coaches I've ever had -- she was passionate and she drove us to win.

"She brought together the team as a family," Jack added. "Now that I've been robbed of her, I don't know if I have a team to return to."

Former Assistant Track and Cross Country Coach Travis Carranza also addressed the HUSD board about his firing in April.

"I don't think the administration handled it correctly," said Carranza, who also spoke last month on the issue. "I got an email from the principal and a phone call -- the process lacked professionalism and respect."

Carranza said mutual respect was the key lesson he learned from his coaches as a student-athlete at Healdsburg High School and he has tried when he became a coach to do the same for his team members.

"To get respect, you have to give respect," he said. "Not everyone has the patience to do that."

Healdsburg High cross country team members Maria Barragan and Abigail Gonzaga, both seniors, said later that Carranza had helped them excel and that they missed his style of coaching.

"Every time we worked with him, he pushed us to do our best," Abigail said. "He got me to be a better runner."

Maria said she started on the team as a freshman with no running experience.

"Having him [Carranza] as coach motivated me to be the best I could be," she said. "Without him, I don't know if I would have been able to go as far in track as I did."

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Keri Brenner October 18, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Hi Liza: Thanks for your comment. The statement only relates to the current situation in that it reflects on the background of concerns that some parents and athletes are quoted as saying they have about the tennis program going forward. It was included for that reason. It should not be construed that the current new tennis coach has had anything to do with the recent firings, and it was not intended to imply that in any way.
zoe moire October 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM
My ears are ringing "...behind closed doors..." I'm wondering if this town's tax paying base needs to look at the Principal and Superintendent for the Healdsburg District Schools and see what kinds of shady things just might be happening behind their closed doors. The problem is likely larger than the Phys. Ed. Department. Let's hope the School Board is not pressured by those in certain positions or the press to get a FULL investigation, which does mean looking at the two gents I mention.
Liza February 05, 2013 at 06:33 PM
I believe the investigation of the complaint has been completed; I would like to know if the report will be made public? I would certainly hope so otherwise it would appear that the district would be hiding the truth from the public.
Christian Kallen February 09, 2013 at 12:51 AM
Patch contacted the HUSD today and was told the Bingham complaint is still a closed-session item, and nothing has yet been decided. Stay tuned...
Christian Kallen February 23, 2013 at 02:44 AM
We just published the results of the investigation, the 8 allegations were all "unfounded." http://patch.com/A-2l1D

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