At last night’s Board of Education meeting (Thursday, Nov. 19), three parents addressed the board during the public comment portion of the meeting to bring their complaints about the Wilton High School athletic department to the Board.
Kyle and Marc Lauricella and Kathy Eagan sat in front of the board members as Kyle read a prepared statement, in which she described what she said were attempts to address problems with the athletic director, Chris McDougal, and the WHS principal, Bob O’Donnell. She says that there has been no response and alleges that the school officials have been “dismissive” and “indifferent.”
“What is most disappointing and discouraging is the dismissive attitude, the indifference and the unwillingness to address the problems and complaints presented to the administration regarding the WHS athletic department,” Lauricella said.
She made even more serious charges: “We have examples of the principal and the AD using deceitful and bullying tactics against student athletes in order to further their agenda, to cover up and protect their behavior and avoid accountability and responsibility.”
Her statement in its entirety is reprinted below, at the end of this article.
At the conclusion of her statement, BoE chair Bruce Likly thanked all three parents, and asked for a copy of her remarks and notes.
Later in the meeting, McDougal made a scheduled presentation to the board on the current state of the athletic department (a copy of the report is included on the meeting’s agenda, which is online). Among the topics, he noted that the WHS department was recognized as an ‘Exemplary Athletic Program’ by the CIAC (CT Interscholastic Athletic Conference), and was one of 20 CT schools awarded a “Michaels Cup” for the second year in a row at the Sportsmanship Banquet earlier the same day.
The Michaels Cup is an award for outstanding achievement overall of a high school athletics program, recognizing achievement in sportsmanship, participation, athletic scholarship, athletic personnel, equity, chemical free initiatives and athletic achievement.
At the conclusion of his presentation, McDougal said the school has had “an extremely positive fall season.”
Following McDougal’s prepared presentation, Likly mentioned the public comments when he questioned the athletic director, asking, “Have you though about developing standard operating procedures across all sports so that how a team runs has a similar look and feel across all teams so parents know what to expect going into it, how cuts are made, how teams are built, how coaches are chosen, how captains are chosen, expectation of practices, expectations for pre-season conditioning, and get it up on the web.”
McDougal responded that he is working on some drafts of documents pertaining to those topics with principal O’Donnell, but that as all sports can vary, there may be particulars for certain sports and teams that aren’t universal. “It wouldn’t be a generic standard operating procedure for every single sport. But what I’m asking the coaches to do is put their rules and their program in writing.”
The complete statement from Kyle Lauricella is printed below in its entirety.
Good Evening. My name is Kyle Lauricella and my husband Marc and I moved here 12 years ago from New Orleans where we have lived most of our lives. We have four children, a daughter who graduated in 2014, a daughter who is a senior at the high school, a daughter who is in 8th grade at Middlebrook and a son who is in 4th grade at Cider Mill. Overall, we have been very pleased with all areas of the town of Wilton and the public schools. Our kids have excelled in the classroom, in extra curricula activities and in athletic endeavors. We are raising them to be responsible, hard working and accountable for their actions. When there are issues, we encourage them to self advocate and work through their problems with coaches, educators and classmates. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for our daughter at the high school. I’m here tonight to alert the members of the BOE and the citizens of the town of Wilton to some serious issues occurring at WHS — specifically in the athletic department.
Throughout this past fall season, the Athletic Director and the Principal were asked to address and explain several issues from several different sports. In particular were the complaints from the players and parents from the junior varsity and varsity girls’ soccer teams. These problems have been ongoing for quite awhile. My husband and I attempted to work through them by bringing them to the attention of the administration. We did this through the proper chain of command and utilized emails, meetings and telephone calls. There are four other families that have raised similar issues following this same process. Along with several other families that have written emails raising similar concerns. There has been little to no response. The administration seems very willing to go through the motions. They sit quietly pretending to listen and even take a few notes. Other than cursory emails acknowledging receipt of the written complaints and questions, there has been no follow up, no policy or procedure change or implementation, no explanation and no accountability. There doesn’t seem to be a desire on the part of the administration to make any improvements or changes.
We have provided examples of the varsity soccer coach’s disregard for the safety, mental and emotional health of the girls on the soccer teams to the administration. We have examples of the principal and the AD using deceitful and bullying tactics against student athletes in order to further their agenda, to cover up and protect their behavior and avoid accountability and responsibility. The most glaring example of this is when Mr. McDougal took the captaincy away from my daughter and another student athlete. The members of the team had voted and the outgoing coach announced the captains. Mr. McDougal ignored the wishes of the team and the coach and announced a revote would take place and he included all players on the freshman and junior varsity teams – most of whom did not know the varsity players and had never been on the field with them – to vote on varsity captains. This has never happened before. My daughter was voted captain again but the other student athlete was not. She subsequently left the team midway through the season. She will be playing division 1 soccer at Holy Cross after graduation. Mr. McDougal told me, and I quote, “She doesn’t deserve to be captain because I think she lied to me.” end quote. Even this revote was for show as, according to him, two girls receive the highest number of votes, but he wanted three captains. So, he chose another player to be captain – favoritism over achievement. This was the beginning of a series of bad events brought on by the reckless and irresponsible actions of Mr. McDougal. These actions taken by the coach, principal and AD are in direct conflict with the WHS athletic department mission statement and the WHS Vision Statement not to mention the FCIAC and CIAC rules and guidelines.
What is most disappointing and discouraging is the dismissive attitude, the indifference and the unwillingness to address the problems and complaints presented to the administration regarding the WHS athletic department. The frustration among athletic families in town is rampant. There are Wilton families who have issues with the football program, lacrosse program, gymnastics program and the soccer program just to name a few, who keep asking each other the same questions: Where do we go for help? Why does the Athletic Director and principal continue to dismiss the issues and complaints brought to them by the families for whom they work? The disdain and contempt the administration has demonstrated for the parents and students in Wilton that dare to ask questions and bring up issues is nothing short of remarkable. The assistant to Chris McDougal, Lynn Prescott has been heard saying, “I hate these ‘expletive’ Wilton parents,” while not being able to adequately process payments for the athletic department.
There is an undercurrent of fear on behalf of the parents in Wilton — fear of retaliation and being ostracized if you speak up against a member of the administration in our schools. Why are parents and students that disagree with the administration called out as troublemakers and treated as pariahs? What has happened to the administration where they no longer listen to, work with or respect and support the parents and students of whom they serve?
Everyone agrees that the administration, faculty, parents and you, the member of the BOE are here for the kids – to quote from the WHS Interscholastic Athletic Program Mission Statement and Core Values – Academics first, sportsmanship and teamwork, character development, leadership, development of athletic skills and healthy life styles, health and the safety of student-athletes.
My daughter, a senior and captain, and another player, who will be playing Division 1 at Boston College, left the team right before the state tournament because they were fearful for their safety. I told this to Dr. O’Donnell on the field and he said nothing. That was on Nov. 5 and no one including the soccer coach, Mr. McDougal or Dr. O’Donnell has contacted myself or my daughter or the other player and her family to inquire about their safety concerns or ask why they feel the way they do.
The duplicity and cover up is startling. There is a saying that is quite appropriate here — We do not hide that which we think is right, we hide that which we know is wrong.
Why are the Athletic Director and Principal ignoring these issues and complaints? My presence here tonight is to attempt to seek the assistance of this board and to shed light on an abuse of trust, power and authority.
I have hope that things will change – especially after reading the interview in GOOD Morning Wilton with Dr. Smith and Bruce Likly. The article states, and I’m quoting, “This is the people’s district. This isn’t the BOE’s district or the administration’s district. It’s the citizens of Wilton’s district. The citizens of Wilton need to realize that’s the way we operate and that’s what we believe.” End quote
I hope so and I’m asking, begging for your help.