Fired Stevens Coach Wants Meeting With School Board

Ross Dole, the coach of the Stevens High girls basketball team, works to motivate his team during practice in Claremont in Dec. 2012. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Ross Dole, the coach of the Stevens High girls basketball team, works to motivate his team during practice in Claremont in Dec. 2012. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Claremont — Ross Dole, fired last week as the Stevens High girls basketball coach, has formally requested a closed door meeting with the school board to discuss what he calls “my wrongful termination.”

Dole was fired Jan. 13 after a meeting with Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin following the suspension of two of Dole’s players who had been at an adult birthday party on Jan. 4, with approximately 50 teenagers and an unknown number of adults at a home in Charlestown.

“I just don’t think I did anything wrong,” said Dole. “I paid a very high price for something I had no control over.”

In a letter to board chairman Richard Seamans, Dole wrote that he was relieved of his duties by the superintendent for not acting on supposed wrongdoing of two of his players. Dole went on to say that a photo on Facebook supposedly showed a party where there was alcohol present — which may or may not have been consumed.

When it comes to alcohol issues, the school handbook is clear: “Any student athlete suspected of using alcohol and/or illegal drugs will come under immediate review of the Athletic Department.”

What is not as clear is what comes next. The handbook is ambiguous in its guidelines for coaches’ responsibility and administrative action. “Each case will be evaluated on an individual basis,” it reads. “A review committee that could include the head coach, athletic director and principal will meet with the student athlete and their parents/guardian. Findings during the review can result in individual game suspensions, multi-game suspensions or dismissal from the team.”

The investigation was handled through the principal’s office, according to Dole. And neither parents nor coaches were involved.

At issue, according to Dole, is that neither he nor his assistant coach, Gary McCall — who was also terminated — were at the party. Dole said he was in Maine looking at camp sites at the time. McCall was at a holiday basketball tournament in Springfield, Vt., and neither had any prior knowledge of the party, Dole said.

Dole did not know of the party until he was notified two days later in an email from junior varsity coach Ivy Desilets, who had seen the picture of the party that had been posted on Facebook. Desilets would later replace Dole as the varsity coach.

A day later, one of the players on the girls team showed the Facebook photo to Stevens Athletic Director Aaron House, who determined that two Stevens girls basketball players were at the party.

“I looked at the photo and couldn’t find the players,” Dole initially said.

Days later, after taking another look, he said, “I think I see the top of their heads.”

Dole did not take any action. Nor did the school.

But the next day, the two girls were called to the office of assistant principal Kim Ezen and told that it was wrong for them to be at the party. There was no punishment levied at that time, however.

“I thought that was the end of it,” said Dole.

It wasn’t.

On Jan. 9, Dole got a call from House telling him that the two girls had been suspended for one game.

“The AD asked me some questions about what I knew about the party and said that there was an investigation, and the two players were suspended for one game,” Dole said.

House, the athletic director, has directed all questions to the superintendent. Repeated calls to the superintendent’s office were not returned.

Along with the two girls players suspended, a boy on the basketball team who was at the party was also suspended for a game by House. Later, that player was suspended an additional three games by his coach.

On Jan. 11, a week after the party, Dole called House and asked to meet to discuss the addition of a new coach to the staff.

“At the meeting, he told me things didn’t look good in regards to the party, and there might be some repercussions,” said Dole.

House also said that he had a meeting planned with the superintendent the following Monday.

Dole offered that he was going to meet with the two suspended players and another who was not at the party, but was involved in bringing the Facebook photo to House.

“House thought that was a good idea,” Dole said. “The girls were mad and (House) suggested that I take them out for a treat.”

The meeting was held before practice in the coach’s office at the school.

“And it didn’t go well,” Dole said.

The player who produced the photo walked out of the meeting and went home. After practice, Dole took the two suspended girls for pizza and ice-cream sundaes.

“I thought that was really the end of it. I was just trying to soothe their feelings,” said Dole, who added that he tried to call House later that night, but got no answer.

On Jan. 13, a Monday, Dole was in his Butler Brothers office in the Sturm Ruger building in Newport when he got a call from House and was told that he had been suspended indefinitely and that he needed to go see the superintendent, which he did on Jan. 14.

At the meeting with McGoodwin, Dole was told that he was being fired for not acting quickly enough to deal with the situation.

“I pleaded with him,” Dole said. “I had my head on his desk. I was emotional. I begged him to find another route to go.

“I was shocked. I said this punishment was way too stiff. I kept pleading, asking him how could this happen?”

Two weeks later, Dole remains upset and confused. He argues that he was not aware of the party, did not attend the party and has no jurisdiction over the players when they are not involved in team interests.