For the second time in four years, Chapel Hill High School is without a head baseball coach.
Randy Trumbower found out last week his contract as head baseball coach at Chapel Hill would not be renewed. And this year’s change mirrors the way David Miller left Chapel Hill in 2009.
Miller led Chapel Hill’s baseball team to Piedmont Athletic Conference championships and into the state playoffs in seven of his nine seasons, but that did very little to protect his job when the principal at the time seemed to develop a distaste for the way Miller conducted business.
She seemed particularly resentful that Miller had a facility for raising funds from the local community, which he used to renovate and improve the facilities at Tiger Stadium, without getting her approval.
All coaches within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system operate on one-year contracts, and principals are used to having their way whenever dealing with teachers and/or coaches.
When principal Jacqueline Ellis decided to let Miller’s contract lapse, meaning he was out as head coach and someone else would be signed, there was very little then-director of athletics Ronnie Hayes could do or say.
For her part, Ellis repeatedly refused to call it a “firing” or “dismissal.” And she offered no reason. All she would say, over and over like a broken record, was that Miller’s contract had expired.
Her tone, to put it bluntly, was oily and dripping with the smug assurance that no one could stop her. Neither could anyone make her explain her decision.
This was all done while Ellis was a lame duck, having announced earlier that year she would leave CHHS.
That just infuriated the parents more, and even more when incoming principal Jesse Dingle refused to reverse his predecessor’s decision.
Ronnie Hayes departed after that one year and went to Northern Guilford.
The parents felt cheated and powerless.
This year, most of the parents of Chapel Hill baseball players reportedly were not in favor of Trumbower being ousted.
Last spring, Trumbower was the target of some complaints, originating from a few families, about his coaching style.
At the time, none of them wanted to go public with their complaints, many of them citing a fear that their children would be labeled as trouble-makers, especially if Trumbower was retained.
Trumbower eschewed public comment as well, and chose not to answer questions publicly while he served out a midseason suspension and the complaints were investigated.
Families familiar with the process followed by Chapel Hill High School said those who defended Trumbower were never interviewed – only the complainants. They say that more than 30 families wrote letters of support.
In the end, it wouldn’t matter.
If true, one serious complaint was enough to cost Trumbower his job. The school may be justified in seeking a new coach, but Trumbower’s supporters still feel cheated of a chance to defend him.
In Chapel Hill, the school administrations tend to side with parents over teachers. More than one coach privately has expressed fears that just one complaint from a powerful family might be enough someday to cost them their job. They have little faith that their administration would back them.
Trumbower’s two conference championships in four years didn’t protect him any more than Miller’s wins protected him.
As soon as he could, Miller went to Southern Lee and has developed another winning program. Trumbower is likely to want to coach somewhere else, and it’s easy to envision him winning, too.
Chapel Hill will get another coach.
And he will have to wonder how long it will be before he fields his first complaints.