A school’s personnel moves are public business

The resignation of Anthony Hickey Sr., the girls’ basketball coach at Christian County High School for the past nine years, was announced to the public through a news release the same afternoon he stepped down from job.

But the release failed to make a critical piece of information clear to the public. The release did not explain — as Hickey later told the New Era — that he was asked to resign.

There’s a significant difference between resigning from a job and being asked to resign. If Hickey had declined to submit to the request, he most likely would have been fired. And that leads to the next glaring omission by the district: Why was he asked to leave the coaching job?

In a phone interview with New Era Sports Editor Chris Jung, Hickey said his resignation was requested during a meeting with CCHS Principal Chris Bentzel, another administrator and the athletic director. He said Bentzel told him the school wants to take the program in a different direction.

After interviewing Hickey, Jung contacted district spokeswoman Heather Lancaster for clarification. In a text message, she said, “Out of respect for Mr. Hickey it is preferred that details of the meeting are not shared with the public. The CCHS administration wishes him the best and will do their very best to move forward when making a selection of a new coach for the CCHS girls basketball team.”

There is an obvious question in this situation. What was the district’s motivation in keeping the details of Hickey’s resignation private? Was it out of respect for Hickey? Or could it be that the administration for Christian County Public Schools declined to provide a straight answer because district officials did not want public scrutiny on a matter that might be controversial?

We’ve seen a pattern with the district, and the central office seems dedicated to shielding anything unfavorable from public view. If leaders at CCHS want to take the basketball program in a new direction, that’s something that ought to be shared more openly. The girls’ basketball program does not belong to administrators. It belongs to the student body, the community and the public who pays the bills.

Hickey felt like the news release was misleading, and he has a point.

“My girls were told in a different manner than what they should have been told,” he said. “They were never told that (Christian County) wanted to go in a different direction and asked me to resign. I always tell my kids never to quit, so I don’t want the misconception to my kids that I quit on them. I’m not a quitter, and I’m never going to quit on kids.”

We don’t know if the decision to force Hickey’s resignation was strictly about his record — 121-124 in nine years — or based on some other factor.

A public school system is a government entity, and it is obligated to provide a full understanding of its operations. That includes accurate information about personnel changes — especially high-profile positions like high school basketball coaches.

The district’s news release about Hickey was misleading. And the response to a follow-up question about the nature of the resignation does not seem genuine.

The public has a right to expect more transparency from the school district.

Kentucky New Era

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