8/29/2014 11:39:00 AM Fake intruder scare at Bomber Dance Team school lock-in leads to firing of coach
by Ken Haggerty
The Cannon Falls School Board voted 5-1 on Monday, August 25, to not renew the annual contract of Madi Salisbury as head coach of the Bomber Dance Team for the 2014-15 school year, as recommended by the administration. Board member Curt Beissel was the lone vote against the decision.
The reasons for the firing are considered private under employee data practices and were not announced at the meeting, but the decision stems from an incident at a team-building, overnight lock-in held at the school this past month.
In what has been described as an attempt to scare the team members similar to a ghost story around a campfire, Salisbury was involved in orchestrating a situation where the team members (about 50 girls) were told there was an intruder alert, the team was gathered into a room, lights were turned out and then some other girls recruited by the coaches wearing masks burst into the room. At least one of the fake intruders is reported to have had a child's cap gun that was being fired off. One of the fake intruders is a school district staff member and is facing termination as well,
Reports vary on how scared the dance team members were. Some say girls were screaming, crying, praying in terror; covering each other and running for shelter.
Other reports say that many were laughing or began laughing after the lights were quickly turned on and the coach calmed everyone down. The team members completed the lock-in event.
Administration members learned about the incident from parents of girls who were shaken up. Superintendent Beth Giese and Activities Director Jake Winchell interviewed more than 15 witnesses in preparing their recommendation.
It is believed that specific school policy violations cited in the non-renewal of Salisbury are in regard to hazing, weapons and non-reporting of a stressful situation.
At the school board meeting, attended by about 100 people, dance team member Maddie Moskal read a prepared statement before the vote. She said the dance team coaches would do anything for the team members and would in no way mean any harm for team members. She said the coaches love them like their own children.
Moskal said that school violence is a sensitive subject that is not to be taken lightly. She said we all deserve second chances and that not renewing Salisbury's contract was "way over the top" of an action.
The board and some administration members left the meeting in the school media center and met in private for about half an hour to discuss the personnel decision. They returned to the IMC and took a public vote on the resolution to not renew.
Erin (Hawkinson) Kruesi, an assistant coach with the dance team from 2007-11 spoke in support of Salisbury at the board meeting public comment period after the vote. She said coaches take seriously the trust given to them of the hearts, minds and well-being of the young ladies on the team. She called the board decision something that makes adults happy, not something in the best interest of the students.
Kruesi said the situation escalated way more than it needed to and wished the board didn't just look at the black and white of a written policy.
Dancer parent Sheryl Bauer said she was upset about the lack of communication from the coaches and the school on the incident. As of the night of the school board meeting, she said she was still working on "grapevine" information and had received no formal notice of just what had happened or of an investigation.
Board chair Bob Brintnall lauded the administration for the time and effort they had put into this. Brintnall said to characterize the incident as a small matter is incorrect and that it was treated with extreme seriousness.
Superintendent Giese said this was a "hard decision for the administrative team and the school board." She said they take school safety very seriously.