The Unit 5 school board on Wednesday approved Nathan Fincham as the new Normal West high school football coach. But the action came with concerns voiced by the public.
Fincham served as an assistant coach under Darren Hess, who resigned suddenly last year. Unit 5 parent David Cobb told the board the athletic department should have more diversity.
"By placing the current candidate as your new head coach, whom was part of the former varsity football staff, we are running the risk of the same nepotism and systemic bias as before," Cobb said during public comment.
Cobb said the Normal West men's basketball and football teams haven't had an African-American coach in their history.
"I don't know him (Fincham). I've never had a conversation with him. However, he was a part of that former staff. If we're going to do what's best for our kids, what's best for our community, we want diversity and inclusion," Cobb said.
Cobb said kids are leaving the Normal West football program and transferring to new school districts for various reasons.
"I'll let you figure out why that is," Cobb told the media.
Several Normal West football families and boosters packed the school board's meeting in January, seeking more information about why Hess left the program. At the time, the district acknowledged concerns it had about how Normal West’s Gridiron Club boosters group spent its money—specifically whether money was improperly given to Hess’ assistant coaches.
Those same parents and boosters also asked for an explanation of an abrupt closed session, sought by Cobb and others, with the school board in November. Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel told GLT the closed session was related to "questions in regards to the football program." But he declined to comment further. The state’s Open Meetings law allows public bodies to go into closed session to discuss specific employees.
According to Wednesday's Unit 5 meeting agenda, Hess himself tried to request the closed session's minutes through the Freedom of Information Act. That request was denied.
Daniel said Fincham can provide an inclusive environment for student-athletes. Daniel did acknowledge diversity in the district is an issue.
"It's an issue in our district in regards to our classrooms, in regards to our educators, in regards to our co-curricular positions," he said. "We need to develop a pool that has diversity in it."
A committee made up of football players, parents and other coaches helped choose Fincham.
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