The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Georgie Kulczyk
The Courier 

Letter Sheds Light on Kolstad's Departure from GHS Basketball


News of the recent termination of Jon Kolstad's contract as Glasgow High School's head girls basketball coach left unanswered questions. Efforts by interested parties to clarify the termination with school board trustees were initially unsuccessful. Some answers eventually came to light with a letter sent to GHS from the Montana High School Association (MHSA) on April 27, 2016.

At the regular school board meeting held May 11, Superintendent Bob Connors shared the content of said letter with the trustees and attendees present.

Connors explained that he felt it was important to share the contents of the letter because the school district had received a monetary penalty, therefore he read portions of the letter aloud to those present.

The letter, addressed to activity director Brenner Flaten, was written by MHSA Executive Director Mark Beckman and summarized alleged violations by the GHS girls basketball program and penalties imposed as a result.

The letter referenced multiple violations by the program and specified an infraction of the Ridgeway Settlement Agreement (otherwise known as Title IX), as well as an infraction of the MHSA Awards Rule, with both infractions pertaining to the purchase of travel suits by the girls basketball team.

According to the document, the school violated the Ridgeway Settlement Agreement by allowing the purchased travel suits to be worn to GHS events for girls' basketball without providing comparable items for a boys' team. The letter further states that because more than half of the girls on the team did not purchase the suit with their own money or their parent's money, the girls were in violation of the MHSA Awards Rule.

Beckman goes on to say, “It is disturbing that the coach did not contact you for advice and approval to buy the travel suits to make sure the purchases were within the rules. It is also very disturbing that the coach set up fictitious jobs for the girls to 'earn' the money to buy their travel suits, deliberately circumventing the awards rule.”

In the letter, Beckman explains how he determined the penalty amount imposed against GHS: “I am only going to impose the standard penalty for these violations. A $50 fine and a private reprimand are imposed against Glasgow High School for the violations. I did not impose any major penalties for these violations (which could have included additional fines, forfeitures and student ineligibility) because I know Glasgow High School has taken appropriate actions in regard to your coach for the blatant disregard for MHSA rules, for the Ridgeway Settlement Agreement and for the disregard for your school administrator's direction. Those actions, I understand, included his termination from the position.”

Beckman closed the letter by commending Flaten for self-reporting the violation with the proper process.

When contacted for comment, Beckman, who was joined on speakerphone by MHSA associate director Joanne Austin, indicated that when an infraction is reported to the MHSA, each circumstance is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and when infractions are self-reported, as in this case, the MHSA does not do an investigation into the violations. “In this particular case, they reported a specific violation, we reviewed the information we received with the school folks and talked with multiple administrators from the school,” he explained. “There was no further investigation.”

Beckman also indicated that they first became aware of the specific violations when Flaten reported them. With an apparent small staff, it is presumably difficult for MHSA to consistently monitor all of its members for violations. Referencing the large number of schools that are members of MHSA, he said, “We don't go looking for this kind of stuff.”

To establish the penalties, which were personally determined by Beckman, the MHSA took into consideration the level of the violation, whether or not the school was involved in the violation, and what the school did to address the violation. In this instance, according to Beckman, the fact that the infractions were self-reported also contributed to his decision to impose only minor penalties.

When contacted for comment, former head coach Jon Kolstad indicated he was disappointed in how the situation was dealt with by GHS and how the school board handled it. He said, “The letter is based on Brenner's report and Brenner doesn't have all the facts.”

Additionally, Kolstad expressed his disappointment in how the letter questioned the overall integrity of the girls' basketball program while he was coaching. “Here we had these girls following core values, writing thank you letters and saying nice things to the bus drivers, and they get in trouble for this,” he explained.

Kolstad indicated that after the season started, the girls approached him and asked him if they could purchase travel suits. According to Kolstad, he told the girls that nobody on the team was to be excluded, all the girls needed to decide together, and the travel suits needed to be affordable.

In part, Kolstad also felt it would be a good idea for the girls to have another option for apparel when traveling. “We had issues in the past with girls wearing things that were too short or too tight and they were not allowed to play because of it,” he explained. “I thought it was good for them to try and look respectable.”

When contacted for comment about the violations, Flaten deferred questions to GHS Superintendent Bob Connors, but did say he was first made aware of the violations when MHSA contacted him about them.

Connors stated that the purchase of travel suits by the girls were called into question when MHSA received an anonymous letter from a parent. The letter, dated January 4, 2016, questioned “whether Title IX applied anymore,” and on January 11, MHSA contacted Connors about the letter.

After becoming aware of the possible infractions, according to Connors, GHS proactively investigated the alleged violations and on April 4 self-reported the findings to MHSA.

According to Kolstad, Flaten discussed the alleged violations with him only once. During that discussion Flaten told him there had been an episode and MHSA was going to send out a team to investigate. In addition, Flaten cautioned Kolstad that he had possibly committed a felony with the infraction. Kolstad maintained that at no time after the initial discussion did anyone from MHSA or GHS follow up with him or even ask him a question.

Furthermore, Kolstad indicated that Flaten insisted that the travel suits were not to be worn unless and until they were fully paid for. At that time, said Kolstad, the girls had only paid for a portion of the suits and still owed for about half the cost. Kolstad also said Flaten set a deadline for the girls to complete payment and stipulated that they pay him directly for the suits.

When asked for clarification about Flaten's instructions, Connors indicated that, “It wasn't the payments that were in question, it was the way the money was generated that was the issue that caused the MHSA to reprimand Glasgow High School.”

Kolstad maintained that the purchase of the suits was something the girls did on their own, but feels they didn't do anything wrong. Kolstad did acknowledge that if the suits were a violation of MHSA rules, his non-participation did not absolve him of responsibility.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Courier fully acknowledges and reports that it compensated several members of the girls basketball team for some cleaning they did at our location. Furthermore, this writer is the mother of one of the girls on the team.


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