Issues between CCHS principal, baseball coach apparently resolved

Published 10:44 pm Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chilton County High School Principal Greg DeJarnett pointed to money as the source of friction between he and leaders of the school’s baseball program.

That situation escalated to the point that hundreds of local residents declared their intention to attend Tuesday’s meeting of the Chilton County Board of Education to show their support for CCHS coach Josey Shannon, who was fresh off taking his team to the semifinal round of the Class 5A state playoffs, the program’s deepest run in 21 years.

Dozens of supporters showed up for the meeting. By that point, issues between DeJarnett, Shannon and others had apparently been reconciled.

DeJarnett said a group that didn’t meet the criteria of an official booster club had been using an account, which was unauthorized by the school and beyond its control, to both pool money collected from team fundraisers and private donations, and to “make payments to a board of education employee.”

The principal declined to say which employee was receiving payments.

Shannon said he wasn’t involved with the financial intricacies of the program. One person with access to the account, Jeff Price, said the group of supporters was not secretive or dishonest in its financial dealings.

In fact, a random audit requested by the board of education and conducted by an outside agency revealed no problems with the program, Price said.

“I was told [Tuesday] that we had provided every receipt that we needed and that the state auditor was gone,” Price said. “I don’t know if that had anything to do with the retention of coach Shannon, but there certainly wasn’t anything that I know of that could have led to his firing.”

Price said the account in question was opened by the Tiger Club, when an effort was being made to construct a weight room and locker room at the school’s football field.

Tiger Club officials determined they wouldn’t be able to raise the needed funds, so some money was refunded to donors, while the rest was left in the account. The baseball facility was then targeted as a need, and the account was refocused on that project.

Once the baseball facility was completed, Price said the account was used as any typical booster club account would be used.

“Every dollar that was donated to the building went to the building,” Price said. “There was never any confusion about that. Once that project was done, we used that as kind of a booster club account.”

DeJarnett said another issue is that people supporting the CCHS baseball program did not constitute an official booster club. Price said he recently received a list of requirements for booster clubs and that the CCHS baseball group promptly came into compliance.

“I will be meeting with those parents so we can properly discuss the future of the baseball program and to make sure that everyone knows and understands proper procedures,” DeJarnett said. “I think a lot of good is going to come out of this.”

The situation was multi-faceted. For starters, the CCHS baseball team practices and plays games at Jack Hayes Field, which is part of Clanton City Park instead of on the school campus.

So, the construction of a new locker room and hitting facility before the 2011 season had to be approved by the Clanton City Council. Both DeJarnett and Price are city councilmembers.

Also, Shannon teaches at Clanton Intermediate School, which he said makes communication with DeJarnett more difficult.

“It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to check in with Mr. DeJarnett all the time and keep him informed, but that’s something I’ve got to make an effort to do a better job of,” Shannon said. “I think it all comes down to a lack of communication.”