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Prep Basketball: East's McKenzie stunned by his reassignment

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
Meet Greg McKenzie, the most successful boys basketball coach in East Rowan history, a man who has been chosen by his peers to coach in the prestigious East-West All-Star game later this month …
And now, a science teacher at Knox Middle School.
What?
McKenzie produced a letter he received recently from Delores Morris, the assistant superintendant of Human Resources:
“Due to a projected decrease in student enrollment at East Rowan High School, you are being reassigned to Knox Middle School. You will no longer be the basketball coach at East Rowan High School.”The letter went on to instruct McKenzie to contact the principal at Knox and discuss his placement as a science teacher, and the possibility of coaching responsibilities.
McKenzie says it all stems from his suspension after an alleged confrontation in P.E. class with a student on April 22.
McKenzie said there was no confrontation. He simply walked past the student, patted him on the stomach and said, “Do your pushups.”
McKenzie said the next thing he knew, he was being accused of “punching the student in the stomach and knocking the wind out of him.”
McKenzie denied it, of course and asked to talk to the parents. He said he was told no, that an investigation would be the next step.
“I asked, ‘Did you tell them my side of the story?’ ” McKenzie said. “I was told, ‘No.’ ”

That’s when Morris got involved. McKenzie said he asked principal Kelly Sparger, ‘Has she heard my side of the story?’ and he said he was again told no.
Then, he was suspended with pay for the rest of the year.
McKenzie said the administration has not supported him, a stunning blow to the coach who said of Sparger, “We have always had a great relationship. Two weeks earlier, I had an observation and everything was fine. It was above standard. He has sent me positive e-mails and notes.”
McKenzie proved Sparger’s support by sending the Post an e-mail written by Sparger after the basketball season, and a birthday card from the principal.
“He was always incredibly supportive,” McKenzie said.
“Until that day.”

One question is, if the reassignment is due to decreased enrollment, why send McKenzie and not another faculty member?
McKenzie was not only a science teacher but he carried multiple duties. His suspension left one very large void: no male P.E. teacher over the last month.
“There was no male in the locker room supervising and that’s where 80 percent of the crazy stuff happens,” McKenzie said.
Another question is, why was McKenzie suspended at all? There were never any charges filed against him by the student’s family. There were never any formal complaints filed with the school system.
But yet, he’s out at East. He leaves with a record of 88-25 during five years and led the Mustangs to heights they had never before seen, including the 2005 Western N.C. final, one step from the state 3A championship game.

The job opening has been posted on the school system Web site as an interim position with no teaching vacancy.
The Post called Sparger and left a message, but assistant principal Rick Vanhoy called instead to discuss the vacancy.
“We’re in a bind without a teaching position,” Vanhoy said, adding there has been interest.
Former East athlete and current jayvee coach Raymondo Brady has been doing a good job with the players this summer, Vanhoy said. Brady was seen coaching the Mustang teams during this week’s Pfeiffer University camp.
McKenzie said he hasn’t contacted Knox Middle and is looking for openings.
“I swear,” McKenzie said, shaking his head, “sometimes I think, ‘All this because of what happened in P.E. class?’
“It’s hard to believe.”

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