After Tense Discussion With South Fork High School’s Principal at Wednesday’s Basketball Game, Andy Olsen Abruptly Resigns as Athletic Director
Olsen explained that on Wednesday at a home basketball game, he and Cyndi Aguiar, the South High School principal had a disagreement on what Olsen called a student safety concern.
“The major issue that took place was the orientation or placement of our school band,” Olsen said. He believed the area where the band was to play in the school’s new gym would create “a major safety issue.”
He worried that student athletes would “get pushed into a drum set or an amplifier.” He added, “Me being ordered to move the basketball placement to accommodate the band wasn’t right. It was not a concert..It was an athletic event. It was my role to make sure our student athletes are protected as much as possible.”
Olsen said Aguiar told him to make that change or the game would be cancelled. Olsen said he refused and left the premises. “”I resigned on the spot and left the gymnasium….If that person in that role wants to order me to do things I know are unsafe and incorrect, I’m not going to put our students in situations that can be disastrous,” Olsen said.
Saundra Stephenson, the music assistant, said the whole situation was problematic. She explained, “The principal was advocating for our kids–the band kids…It was unfortunate that [seating the band was] not worked out in advance…I could see it wasn’t a good place….It was obvious that we needed to move.”
But, Stephenson pointed out, “Setting up takes over an hour to do.” They were already partially set up. Not only that but, she said, just not playing this time would have been frustrating for many as “more than half of our band are Junior High students that had to make special arrangements to be there.”
In the old gym, a section of bleachers had been left pushed against the wall which had allowed an area for the band to play, Stephenson said. But the new bleachers don’t have that option.
She said that a suggestion was made that the other team’s bleachers be pushed up so the band could play there. “I feel like just for that night it would have worked,” she said. “But they didn’t want to do that. I think they didn’t want to make those bleachers unavailable to the other team’s fans.”
After, Olsen left, Stephenson said, the band set up partially in the bleachers. Being seated there wasn’t ideal, according to Stephenson. The drum set, the guitar, the bass, the amps, etc. were not meant to be used in this situation. So those musicians had to be squeezed in next to the bleachers and in front of the girls’ locker room. In addition, in years past they had been told not to sit in the bleachers as it took room away from the fans.
Stephenson said she felt badly that Olsen resigned. “I appreciate Andy he’s a great guy and he was in our band way back when,” she explained. “I feel like it was something that could have been worked out. It was upsetting.”
On Thursday, Olsen sent the following letter of resignation:
I am saddened that the time has come for me to write this letter. As of Wednesday January 10 at 3:25 PM, I am resigning from my positions of Athletic Director, Head Football Coach & Head Baseball Coach at South Fork High School.
This is not a decision that I am happy about nor did I expect to happen, but at this time is a necessity. I have given 14 years to South Fork High School as a Coach/AD and truly intended on giving more. Things have changed. When the time comes that you lose support from administrators it is time to no longer associate yourself with that situation. I feel extremely terrible for the kids( past, current and future ) all 217 of them that I have had the privilege of having on the teams I have coached over the said 14 years. I apologize if I am letting you down, but would hope that I have and am appreciated for the years of service that I gave to the Southern Humboldt Unified School District.
From here on all athletic concerns can be directed to:
Cyndi Aguiar, Principal
South Fork High School…
It has been a pleasure to get to know all of you,
Don Boyd, Southern Humboldt Unified’s District Superintendent, praised Olsen’s hard work over the years. He said he didn’t need to give the school’s version of events if Olsen had already spoken. “I will trust what Andy told you,” Boyd said. “I have respect for him.”
Boyd said, “After the interaction, the band was moved into the stands…and they tucked [the drum set] on the side of the bleachers.” He said that when the principal called him, he told her to “show the head official the setup…She told me she did that, he okayed it, and they played the basketball game.”
He then went on to say that there was a core reason behind Olsen’s resignation. “In a nutshell, he does not feel he has the support of the administration,” Boyd said. “If he was not feeling supported, ultimately that falls on me.”
Boyd went on to say that Olsen had “taken on too much.” This, Boyd said was “just necessity. Because either someone wouldn’t do it or couldn’t do it…There is a lot of responsibility [in the Athletic Director’s job.]” Boyd then listed numerous tasks Olsen took charge of–everything from rescheduling, to coaching, to seeing to student athlete’s well-being. “Andy did all of that,” Boyd said. “Attending pretty much every event–even away events….That is not the norm that I am used to.”
Boyd said, “It is hard for me to believe that the average [Athletic Director] does all that.”
Boyd said that in the “short term, I will be acting Athletic Director.” He said that “moving forward, I will be asking of our coaches to take on responsibility of their individual sports.” He feels that this will help lessen the tasks and time required of the Athletic Director. Then, he said that while he is managing the position of Athletic Director, “We’ll fly the position. We’ll start internally. If we don’t get anybody, we’ll open it externally.”
Meanwhile, there is a movement among some parents to protest Olsen leaving.
Cinnamon Paula, a parent at South Fork, said, “Parents have been reaching out with concerns about the future of athletics at South Fork High School. Some want to protest at the school. Others are petitioning that the principal not be hired back next year. Andy made a tough decision and families are looking for ways to show him their support.”
Michelle Bushnell, a business owner in Garberville said, “I worked with him for five years when I was booster president. What a great job he did, and cared so much about his athletes.” She said, “We have a school board meeting on the 18th at Weott School [at 4:30] for anyone that may want to support him.”
Paula said that she is encouraging parents “to write letters and come to next week’s board meeting. [I’m] not sure what the actual protest plans are, but I don’t personally want to encourage taking attention away from the game, just thinking of kids…It’s hard enough on them.”
As we finished writing this story, Andy Olsen posted the following on the South Fork Booster’s Facebook page,
First thing I would like to say here is this is not the format that is most appropriate to share this with you all, but it is probably most effective and quickest way for the community of Southern Humboldt to see this.
With that said here goes…
The last 43 hours has been extremely though for me. The decision to walk away from a familiar place after spending half of my life there was not easy and extremely painful. But it is my decision. The constant battle in doing what I have always believed to be what’s in the best interest of the students has not always been easy or enjoyable. But I am proud of the results. I enjoyed each of the 22 sports teams that I had an opportunity to coach and loved each and every one of the 217 students that called me “Coach”. I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me back in the fall of 2004 by the Southern Humboldt Unified School District, and especially Karl Terrell For bringing me on board 14 years ago. I appreciate all the community support throughout the years and especially the huge amount of support the last two days. I know many of you are angry, I’m angry, but we must all move on. Rather than spending time and energy on me, I would like to see that redirected to what is most important….the kids. They need you all. I would hope that somebody, or a group of people, can step in immediately and resume the vacancies that are currently at South Fork so the kids can continue to have the best possible experience at South Fork. They are what is important, not me. I hope that all parties involved can move on as quickly as possible so the athletic program at South Fork will continue to survive and thrive.
In conclusion, I wish the students and South Fork nothing but the best.
Proud Caring Alumni, Class of 1999