CRETE | Crete-Monee High School parents are leading a petition drive to pressure School Board officials to reinstate Gene Cahan as athletic director.
As of Tuesday, parent Carol Millsap said the group has about 400 signatures, about half of which are from students who do not agree with the decision to reassign Cahan from athletic director to a teaching post for the upcoming school year.
Millsap said she has had talks with several School Board members, only to get differing accounts from them about why action was taken against Cahan, who had been athletic director since 2005 and baseball coach at the high school for the past 25 years.
“At this point, we’re more interested in trying to get a straight answer as to what is going on here,” she said. “It’s confusing, and we really don’t know what is happening.”
The decision to replace Cahan was announced by the School Board when it met in March. Millsap said she and her supporters plan to show up at the next School Board meeting rescheduled to April 16 and hope to present petitions with up to 1,000 signatures of support for Cahan to remain as athletic director.
The mother of student Laquon Treadwell told The Times previously she had complained about Cahan’s display of an unflattering newspaper photo of her son in a school hallway, and Cahan himself has said he believes this is why he is being demoted. In a published report, however, Superintendent John Rodgers said Cahan's demotion was not due to just one incident.
Yet Millsap said that among the student signatures of support for Cahan is that of Treadwell. “He said he wasn’t trying to get anyone fired,” she said.
Laquon's mother, Tami, said Tuesday afternoon she was unaware of her son having signed any petition on Cahan's behalf, although she admitted that her son was not pleased that Cahan lost his post.
"He didn't want him to be fired, I didn't want him to be fired," said Tami Treadwell, adding that her son was not available to comment Tuesday about the matter.
For her part, Millsap said she’s not limiting herself to the petition drive. She is in the process of contacting the Illinois State Board of Education to file a complaint, although she was unsure Tuesday what form that complaint would take.
She also hopes to organize a meeting Thursday night to give people who support Cahan a chance to speak and coordinate among themselves. As of Tuesday, a location for that meeting had not been set.
Millsap had hoped to meet this week with District 201-U Superintendent John Rodgers to discuss the incident, only to be told he would not discuss the matter because it was a personnel issue.
Rodgers on Tuesday said he was aware of the petition drive and realized that some parents “are not pleased with what has happened.”
He said that at the next School Board meeting, parents would be permitted to present their petitions to the board and would be heard.
“It is a public meeting, and we do listen to people who want to discuss legitimate issues,” the superintendent said.
Rodgers said district officials earlier this week posted the athletic director’s job as available, and applications will be accepted during the next few weeks.
“We won’t be in a position to hire a new athletic director at the next meeting,” he said.
Millsap said the people who are backing Cahan aren’t necessarily doing so out of any personal friendship with the man.
“Anybody who has ever dealt with him knows he’s not a sugar-and-sweet, nice guy, he can be difficult,” Millsap said. “But he’s doing his job as athletic director, and that’s what should matter.”