March 26 06:22 AM
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Former student critical of treatment given to ousted coach

To the Editor:

I grew up here in Imlay City and am a graduate of Imlay City High School. I live in Almont now and work as a veterinarian in Imlay City and throughout Lapeer, St. Clair, Macomb and Oakland counties. I was always quite proud to be a Spartan athlete, and really enjoyed my time as a Spartan.

I was quite shocked to open the paper and see that Rick Finkbeiner had been fired as head coach of the basketball team. I was even more horrified to read that he had been notified in writing. I had Mr. Finkbeiner as a little league softball and little league basketball coach. He was also my junior high softball coach, varsity basketball coach and assistant varsity softball coach. I learned a lot from him and am quite confused how all of a sudden he does not fit the direction the team is going. We are not the NBA, we are a small high school. I find it hard to believe that a coach that has been part of a school district for at least 18 years and has been successful at his job suddenly does not fit. This aside, I was completely disappointed by the manner in which this was handled.

This is a small town, there is only one high school, and Mr. Finkbeiner teaches in the school. Did the district honestly have to notify him in writing? Could they not show him enough respect to call him into the office and tell him in person? What happened to face to face communication? Even though we live in an age of texting and email, there is still a need for face to face communication. I think that after all of these years of service, the district could have at least done that and then there would be no question as to how he found out. I think that you owe him an apology in the least, and I hope that in the future you will handle these situations a little differently.

I want to personally say that I am sorry to Mr. Finkbeiner for how he was treated after all of the things that he has done for Imlay City. Thank you for your years of dedication and hard work. Thank you for loving to coach, and doing it to the best of your ability year after year with the students you had to work with. Thank you for putting up with angry parents because their mediocre athlete child does not play enough and those parents who are mad because their star athlete did not play the entire game. Thank you for everything that you taught me over the years. I wish you all the best and if you do still have the desire to coach, I hope that you find a team that appreciates all that you do.

Editor's note: Imlay City Schools Supt. Gary Richards responds as follows:

"Mr. Finkbeiner was notified of our nonrenewal decision in a face-to-face meeting with the high school principal and athletic director; not in writing. Additionally, Mr. Finkbeiner was informed, in a meeting at the end of the 2007-08 basketball season with the high school principal and athletic director, that his position as head coach was tenuous. It is the responsibility of our coaches to fully embrace the coaching expectations established by the school district."

Laura (Sillers) Schapman, Almont
June 03, 2009

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