VIDEO: Extensive history of shouting, swearing and degrading comments cited in reprimand of ex-West Fargo coachWEST FARGO – At one point during a West Fargo Packers football game late in this season, assistant coach Jim Jonas was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after saying something to an official.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
WEST FARGO – At one point during a West Fargo Packers football game late in this season, assistant coach Jim Jonas was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after saying something to an official.
The incident, not the only one in the mercurial and sometimes profane coach’s career in West Fargo, may have been the tipping point in a long list of incidents on the sidelines and in the classroom – more than 25 by the district’s count – that led to Jonas losing his football and basketball assistant coaching jobs, according to a three-page letter of reprimand put into his personnel file Friday.
“This action is due to a long pattern of behaviors well-documented. There is no one specific parent or student complaint that precipitated this action. Simply put, enough is enough,” the reprimand states.
The written reprimand follows a meeting Thursday night that included Jonas, Superintendent David Flowers, senior school district officials and West Fargo Education Association representatives.
The reprimand also documents Jonas’ angry reaction to getting a Nov. 8 letter that stated he wouldn’t be given another football or basketball coaching contract.
“Upon reading the (Nov. 8) letter, you crumpled it up and threw it to the ground. You made a statement to the effect that you could not work here any longer, then you picked up the crumpled letter and left,” the reprimand stated.
The reprimand goes on to state that, rather than returning to work after the Veterans Day holiday, Jonas, a world history teacher at the high school, called in sick for three days in a row, returning Nov. 15.
“There are in excess of 25 references in your file concerning: you losing your temper with students; you making degrading remarks to students; your name calling, swearing, and being disrespectful; and, your being argumentative with administrators and game officials,” the reprimand stated, adding that problems were already cropping up a year into his 23-year teaching and coaching career.
The reprimand states Jonas’ actions are the types that violate the district’s bullying policy.
“In so many documented instances, you have resorted to shouting, swearing and making degrading comments. These are the types of behaviors prohibited by our legally-required bullying policy, by either students or adults. Such incidents, repeated over time, demonstrate your unwillingness and/or inability to change your behavior,” the reprimand states.
“All West Fargo School District employees are expected to maintain a standard of behavior worthy of educators, and to maintain a standard of behavior that sets a good example for students,” the letter continues later. “Our district deserves coaching that displays such qualities. You are not an exception to the expected standard of behavior. If you feel that your exhibited behavior over the years meets this standard, we assure you there is significant disagreement about that.”
The reprimand states that many people have apologized and tried to excuse his actions.
“No one disputes that you have many, many positive qualities but, in addition, our district also deserves coaching leadership that does not require apologies for repeated behaviors by an adult that we do not allow or tolerate among students,” the reprimand states.
The reprimand ends stating that Jonas may be offered a contract to continue as an assistant track coach, provided he meets with Activities Director Curt Jones and High School Principal Jennifer Fremstad to develop an improvement plan.
Jonas, in his written reply to the letter of reprimand, said he reacted to the Nov. 8 letter as he did, and called in sick, because he was surprised and “devastated.”
“I want to go on record in clarifying that I have never treated student athletes in a retaliatory fashion based on any parent complaints of this nature,” Jonas wrote.
“In closing, I would like to assure the administration that I have done nothing to intentionally encourage or escalate the students’ and/or community response to my release from the basketball coaching position,” Jonas wrote. “… I understand the concerns expressed in the letter, and will make every effort to address them.”
District spokeswoman Heather Konschak said Friday that reports stating Jonas could return to the bench as soon as fall 2014-15 are not correct.
“We did not put a time frame on when he could or could not return to the football sidelines or the basketball bench,” Konschak said.
The reprimand was signed by Jonas, Flowers, Fremstad, Jones, human resources Director Robin Hill, Assistant Superintendent Allen Burgad, track distance coach Darrin Boehm and West Fargo Education Association representatives Deanna Paulson, Tim Scully, Gale Haug and Mark Berntson.
The school district on Friday also released a videotaped statement by Jonas.
“As you know, I will not be coaching basketball and football for West Fargo High School in the coming seasons,” Jonas said.
“I would like to thank everyone for the support and encouragement I have received during this difficult time. I want you to know that I met with a group of West Fargo educators, consisting of coaches, the athletic director, teachers and administrators, on Nov. 21, 2013, to discuss the situation surrounding my coaching positions of football and basketball.
“All members in attendance recognized the importance of unity in moving forward by developing a process to assure communication leading to successful experiences for our student athletes, coaches and parents.
“This group of educators, myself included, is making a commitment to dedicate their efforts to work collaboratively toward a process of continuous improvement in the West Fargo School District that will ensure this success.
“Open and honest communication will be the cornerstone of this effort. The welfare of students will be the utmost consideration.
“To promote a positive school and community climate, we ask that all members of the West Fargo Schools community commit with us in this endeavor.
“Although I will not be coaching basketball and football in the coming seasons, this meeting has given me hope that, with hard work and commitment, I can someday return to the sidelines or the bench.”
Konschak said the district would not release a statement on the apparent resolution to Jonas’ removal as a coach.
“For today, we’re going to let Mr. Jonas’ statement to stand on its own,” she said.
The ouster of Jonas as a coach sparked a groundswell of support among students, parents and the community, reflected on the social media web sites Facebook and Twitter.
On Tuesday, Jonas issued a brief statement of apology.
On Wednesday, about 125 students held a 90-minute sit-in protest in the high school commons.
Jonas has been punished for his demeanor before, having been dropped as a basketball coach following a 1995 incident during a junior varsity basketball game in which he had a run-in with an official over a foul call.
The incident, and his reaction in the aftermath, led to him not being allowed to coach basketball until 2002.
Jonas’ love of football is renown in West Fargo.
That love even had him taking his marriage vows to Denise Wolf on the 50-yard-line of the West Fargo High School football field in June 2010.
Denise Jonas is now the principal of West Fargo’s Liberty Middle School.
The most recent coaching evaluation that Jones had of Jonas was for the 2012-13 boys basketball season.
The document was a very positive review of Jonas coaching, with Jonas scoring highly in all areas.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583