By Rosemary K. Otzman
A contingent of about 45 black parents and students attended the Dec. 9 regular meeting of the all-white Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education to ask the board to fix the problems in the athletic department.
The board was told it’s not about black and white, but about justice for the students.
Victoria Cole, mother of Belleville High School students Charles (Cody) and DeShawn Cole, told of the rumors she said were spread by the athletic department about Charles, a senior.
She said everyone knew he was being cut from the basketball team even before tryouts were held.
She said when asked the athletic director told Charles he should focus on football, since it was the end of the football season, instead of worrying about basketball. She said, they decided to wait.
The rumors led Charles to show up in the BHS Principal’s office. Victoria said this was affecting his grades and emotions. She said Cody suffers from ADHD and low self-esteem.
She said on Nov. 18, the basketball tryouts were held, and on Nov. 19, it was announced both of her boys were cut from the team. Charles, a senior, was told he was cut because he was not up to it and had a bad attitude. He was told he did not have the skills.
Victoria said DeShawn gets good grades, 3.8 grade point average and perfect attendance. He was told by the coach that he was the hardest one to cut but so many people tried for the same position.
“I wanted to make sure they got a good chance,” Victoria said, adding she followed the protocol set up for complaints.
When she didn’t receive calls back from the athletic department, she called the superintendent’s office and she said his secretary said the superintendent would not get involved, unless a teacher was involved.
That’s when she filed her complaint against new basketball coach Adam Trumpour, who coached in Romulus last year.
She said he said both of her sons had bad attitudes. She said there have been no disciplinary actions against her sons this year. Charles was one of the highest scorers on the basketball team last year and played in summer leagues. He carries a 2.8 grade point average, she said.
She said on Nov. 22 she made a call to BHS Principal Abdul Madyun. She said she finally talked to School Supt. Michael Van Tassel on Dec. 4 and he said he would look into it.
Victoria told the board she needs a letter on the issue by Dec. 13.
She said Charles is going to college and she needs to get these issues resolved. She said she had a letter from Charles’ doctor and character letters.
“I do believe it is something personal,” Victoria said, add several other students had similar problems and two parents took their kids out of BHS.
Harold Wimberly, who said he is the boys’ uncle and a former member of the board of education in another district, said his sister Victoria followed all the channels she was supposed to.
He said when stuff started going to the school board, “things started happening.”
Wimberly said from experience he knows that the board should only be involved if the administrators don’t resolve a problem.
“My issue is she followed the channels and was ignored,” he said, noting the only staff the school board has is the superintendent.
“Why did the superintendent allow it to get to the board?” he asked. “That’s the question.”
School board treasurer Sherry Frazier said with rumors going around the school, the students with the rumors should have been drawn aside and spoken to.
She said the boys were very fortunate to have their mother standing up for them.
“We were saddened when we heard this,” Frazier said. “They did go through channels… They got stonewalled, which is not good for the district. We have to face this head on. They are upset their student didn’t get picked … but getting the information before the tryouts?”
Trustee Scott Russell asked Supt. Van Tassel if he was conducting an investigation and he was he was. Russell asked Van Tassel to copy to the board his results.
“It’s not the usual procedure, but I will be glad to do so,” Van Tassel said.
Victoria asked the board to let the students talk to them.
“You need to know why some other people left the district. She said she was before them not only for her own children, but for others in the district, as well.
Joe Baskin said he graduated from BHS and he knows the Coles. “These boys have never been disrespectful, because that’s how their parents raised them,” he said. “I have known these boys since they were born.”
He said these kinds of actions will push boys out into the street.
“If you’ve never played on my team, how do I know you have a bad attitude?” If they go out and fail, fine.”
The boys’ aunt Mrs. Yarborough said she has three children in the district and she wondered if this was an example of what’s going to happen to them.
“Don’t sweep it under the rug,” she urged the board. “He’s looking at college. He’s worked all these years in athletics. Is he supposed to turn to the street?”
Charles’ brother DeShawn said he is a junior and has one more year to try for the team. He said Coach Trumpour said it was hard to cut him. He said the coach speaks to him every day, but he never speaks to Charles, not since tryouts.
“It says something about himself,” DeShawn said. “He likes me, doesn’t like Charles.”
Steve Miller, a law enforcement officer for 30 years, said some of the coaches went to school at BHS. He said he investigated the situation. He said some had problems with families and are taking it out on siblings.
“They need a fair chance,” Miller said of the boys, “instead of ‘I can get back at his kids’.” He said he sees so many kids dying.
He said coaches were talking about these kids during the summer.
Tracy Freeman said she transferred her children out of the district because of problems at the school. She heard rumors. She said she was shocked when Charles was cut.
Charles got up to speak for himself.
“It just ain’t right,” Charles said, adding he has never been cut from a team before. He admitted he had an attitude last year in football, but he straightened up. He got 16 points in the first quarter of one game.
“I was cut before I tried out,” Charles said, adding, “He [Trumpour] said I started the fight with Romulus last year. He was the Romulus coach.”
Charles’ mother said there are tapes of that fight that shows her son didn’t start it.
“I would like to be back on the team,” Charles said.
Michael Wales of Community Baptist Church said he knows the very-well-behaved young men. He said Charles was one of the best basketball players last year.
He said there may be a personal issue but they are dealing with a young man’s future and the coach should evaluate the player for what he can do.
He said he wondered if these personal issues will end with the basketball team or go into the classroom.
“It starts spreading. Where does it end? It determines who is going to be successful or not successful.
“We as a people have been through this before. It doesn’t matter about color, about race. It is about what is just,” Wales concluded.
No one spoke for the athletic department.
In other business at the Dec. 9 regular meeting, the board:
• Accepted a check for $6,000 from Craig Atchinson of Atchinson Ford for the Drive for Your School event last fall. This makes $26,000 Atchinson has presented to the school over four years and Ford has announced it would be offering the event again in 2014;
• Accepted a fake check from Bob Thorne of the Van Buren Civic Fund, who explained he had been too busy to get the real check, but he would. The check was to pay for new basketballs for McBride School (for an amount he did not announce) and $7,600 for a scoring table for the BHS gymnasium, plus record boards so school records could be posted;
• Heard a presentation by Owen Intermediate School Principal Jeff Moore on the programs being used in his building that has 720 students. “All these things that go on in the classroom is exhausting,” said board treasurer Sherry Frazier. “I applaud your efforts”;
• Approved the annual resolution needed to collect school taxes in the summer only, instead of half in the summer and half in the winter. The summer collection helps with cash flow, said financial director Karen Moffitt;
• Approved the purchase of two special-needs buses from Hoekstra through the MSBO/MAPT Bus Purchase Program for $192,835. Moffitt said the school will be purchasing the buses with a corrosion and structural warranty. The district has 28 special education buses purchased in 2003 and five have over 200,000 miles on them. The district is in the process of reviewing its needs;
• Approved the hiring of Albert Dancho to teach Physical Education/Health at McBride Middle School, as of Nov. 18;
• Approved the requested terminations of Brian Burrell, custodian for six years, as of Nov. 20 for other employment, and Ashlea Trevino, a secretary for 14 years, as of Nov. 13, when she resigned;
• Heard Natalie Mosher, Canton resident running as a Democrat for State Representative in the 21st District, introduce herself and briefly explain how she would be working for more education funds for public schools and to make charter schools more accountable; and
• Learned this was the last board meeting of the year. The next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m., Jan. 13, for the board’s organizational session and election of officers.
By Rosemary K. Otzman