Eaton School Board wants winning baseball coach Jim Danley to follow new rules – The Denver Channel

EATON, Colo. – The embattled, iconic coach of Eaton High School’s baseball team will keep his job. At least for now. During a packed, sweltering hot board meeting in Eaton Monday night, the board opted to hold off on a decision regarding the long-time coach’s future.

Eaton High School baseball coach Jim Danley is not your typical coach. He has the all-time winningest record of any high school baseball coach in the entire state. It’s a 44-year coaching career that includes 11 state titles and even a national title this year.

The controversy started a few weeks ago when the school board presented Danley with a 13-point improvement plan. Chief among those improvements, the board calling for Danley to remove his son, Kirk, a long-time volunteer of the program.

It all boiled over Monday night.

“We have a culture, and we try to do things right,” said Danley.

But some parents and current players argue there needs to be a culture shift in the program.

“Their spirits are broken,” said parent Melody Brown. “And I don’t necessarily think by Jim, but by his son.”

“We’re here because we need a culture that promotes confidence building skills, baseball skills and other life skills,” said Eaton High School senior Matt Burkart.

Other students expressing more loyalty to the coach.

“You get rid of Jim Danley, I won’t play for any other high school or any other coach,” said EHS junior Sean Carson. “I won’t play baseball for the rest of my life.”

Parents told 7NEWS Danley’s son, Kirk, who runs aspects of the program, micro-manages player lives, including dictating other sports they can compete in and summer baseball programs they can be involved in.

“He sent out a contract,” said Sara Mondragon, whose son is a senior. “He wanted to make sure he got to them before the Greeley team did.”

The coach defends his son’s involvement and says there’s no truth to him fostering an environment that doesn’t support multi-sport athletes.

“We support other sports,” said Danley. “We have lots of kids who play basketball, play football.”

Danley had a lot of support in the room Monday night. Of the 17 speakers, 10 spoke in favor of him and his program, including two former standout players, Mike Anderson and Mike McKay.

“He’s looking for an improvement plan. The right improvement plan,” said Anderson. “He will be fine. This community will heal.”

The issue has deeply divided the town of Eaton, with Danley supporters and detractors.

There’s also a secondary issue – an e-mail controversy that surfaced last week suggesting the school board conspired, behind closed doors for months, to fire Danley. The e-mail conversations between several board members appear to violate the Sunshine Law, which requires publicly-elected boards to conduct the public’s business in public. The e-mails were sent privately and were only released to the press after an open-records request filed by the Greeley Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act.

In one e-mail uncovered by the Greeley Tribune, Eaton School Board President Tim Croissant says, “One of (the) goals I would like to achieve in this matter is to try to protect the Eaton community from being on the front page of the Tribune with a ‘big negative story.’”

Jeff Roberts is the executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. Roberts told 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn that the Eaton school board appears to have broken the law.

“Their actions appear to be contrary to what the law allows,” said Roberts.

Roberts said a board can discuss personnel matters in private in executive session, put only after announcing to the public what they plan to discuss in executive session. The board must also vote before going into executive session.

“A public body must have conversations in public,” said Roberts. “Electronic conversations are not exempt.”

“Do you feel duped by this board,” Haythorn asked Danley.

“Well, I do because they’re not dealing with me in a straight-forward manner,” said Danley.

Late Monday night, there was still no decision from the board on the coach or his dynasty.

“It’s a good and honorable program, and I think a lot of people want to keep it,” said Danley.

“I think that (Kirk) needs to back off, let his dad run the team, because right now the only person who is ruining his legacy, is Kirk Danley,” said Mondragon.

Danley indicated he has no plans to sign the 13-point improvement plan.

“It’s vague, it’s immeasurable, it’s confusing,” said Danley. “I don’t know any coach that would sign that.”
 

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