By all accounts, Knowles’ firing remains complex

Kiss this picture goodbye?

By Miguel A. Melendez
Staff Writer

Two days since Michael Knowles went public with his firing as Muir High School’s track coach, vice principal Charles Park contacted the Star-News late Wednesday afternoon to give his side of the story.

Park acknowledged a meeting with Knowles in November but disputed Knowles’ account that the meeting initially was scheduled for an overview of the junior varsity football program. Knowles, part of the JV football coaching staff, said the school wanted to go a different direction.

“I did express to him coaching that positions are year to year,” Park said. “The (phrase) new direction – in terms of how that was used – I believe was regarding the interview procedures that our district will use to find the new track coach.”

“He is saying a lot of false things,” Knowles said. “An overview of the JV football program was the reason he called me to have the meeting and he also mentioned that they’re putting a teacher as track coach, that he wanted to let me know up front and that they’re looking at people in our family of the Muir staff here on campus.

“He never said it was year to year. That never came out of his mouth. I’ve been a walk-on for 28 years. I know it’s year to year, so I don’t need to know that.”

Park would not elaborate when asked for specific reasons for Knowles’ dismissal.

“I would say that’s a personnel issue,” he said.

When pressed, Park gave the same answer.

Knowles went to the Pasadena Unified School District last week and spoke to Joanne Abhold, executive director for secondary schools.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, she acknowledged a brief meeting with Knowles and she would get back to him last Wednesday or Friday at the latest.

After not hearing from her, Knowles sent Abhold an e-mail Sunday to find out if there was any progress.

Abhold cited Monday’s holiday and Tuesday’s conference in Porterville for the delay in getting back to Knowles.

“I have not gotten back to him,” she said. “I recently had a conversation with (Muir High School principal Sheryl Orange) and Mr. Parks late last week. I’m just getting back to the office.”

Abhold contacted Knowles minutes later.

“She really didn’t say very much,” Knowles said. “I think she was just returning my call because you probably put pressure on her. I told her what the situation was and she said that (school) had concerns about the kids’ behavior when I was with them on the football field.

“I said I was not a football coach, I was only the offensive coordinator. She was just quiet and listened. To me it was that she’s sympathetic but she doesn’t want to go against her people and has to stick by them.”

In that conversation Knowles said he would consider a reinstatement but would not re-apply for the job.

“I don’t believe I should have been fired in the first place,” he said.

Park acknowledged attending a meeting in December with Knowles, boosters, alumni and stakeholders to discuss the future of the program.

According to Knowles, the decision to relieve him of his duties was a decision handed down from the school district.

“And I have 30 witnesses in the room that heard him say that,” he said.

Sheryl Orange was scheduled to attend that two-hour meeting. She never made it.

“I had an irate parent regarding a student and that took precedence,” she said.

Knowles has requested to meet with Orange but she has not returned his calls, according to Knowles. Orange said Tuesday she would be glad to meet with Knowles.

Park, asked whether it was contradictory to fire Knowles and then ask him to re-apply, as noted in an e-mail he sent Knowles last week, would not answer the question directly. He also would not directly answer whether Knowles is a qualified candidate.

“He has provided the information,” he said. “I would say that the posting on the (Web site) is what defines the qualified candidate. All candidates are qualified according to the criteria.”
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