School board says Graves merely made simple errorA simple mistake, nothing more. That’s what most Mitchell school board members believe caused the month-long gap of time between when Superintendent Joe Graves learned of a rules violation by MHS boys’ basketball coach Gary Munsen and telling the board of the infraction and probation the program was placed on by a state activities board.
By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic
A simple mistake, nothing more.
That’s what most Mitchell school board members believe caused the month-long gap of time between when Superintendent Joe Graves learned of a rules violation by MHS boys’ basketball coach Gary Munsen and telling the board of the infraction and probation the program was placed on by a state activities board.
“It was not a conscious thing to not tell us. It was an accident that occurred,” said Dana Price, a board member and former board president. “This was really highly unusual for Dr. Graves.”
Munsen coached a Mitchell player or players at a Dakota Schoolers basketball tournament in mid-April, leading the South Dakota High School Activities Association to put the program on year-long probation.
Out-of-season coaching is banned by state rules.
In addition, Mitchell boys’ basketball coaches will be denied the opportunity to plan and organize four team activities this summer. The district was fined $200 — an amount Munsen has reportedly agreed to pay — and a letter of reprimand was sent to Mitchell School District administrators. The district must send its own letter to the Activities Association detailing steps to ensure similar violations will not happen again.
All five Mitchell school board members learned of the incident from a Daily Republic reporter on Monday. That evening, during the regularly scheduled board meeting, Graves told the board of the incident and told them the failure to share the information was an honest mistake.
The board appeared to accept Graves’ apology Monday night.
But, this week, members wouldn’t say if further action would come from the board as a result of the incident.
Price, Theresa Kriese and Neil Putnam would not comment on any potential disciplinary action, calling it a personnel matter and therefore private, although Kriese said she felt the matter was settled.
“I believe it was an innocent mistake,” Kriese said.
Putnam said he hopes all parties involved learn from the experience.
“We’re in the learning business. We learn from it,” Putnam said. “What we do is make sure that everybody is clear on what the rules are.”
School board President Brenda Freidel said she believes Graves took full responsibility for the incident.
“I have not known Dr. Graves to cover up any issues at all with us and I don’t think it’s something that he does,” Freidel said.
She said she is unhappy learning about the incident from a newspaper reporter as opposed to the superintendent.
“I’ve spoken with him privately and he understands that I personally am not pleased with having to hear about it like that,” said Freidel.
In an e-mailed response to questions, board member Eric Christensen said he does not expect additional sanctions to stem from the incident.
“In the end, coach Munsen was only doing what he loves to do: coach,” Christensen wrote. “It is too bad that those efforts were against SDHSAA rules because I am sure that, in the end, he was only more concerned about coaching those kids.”
However, Christensen said he was unsure of when the board would have learned of the disciplinary action had a reporter not contacted him and other board members about the story.
“Based on the timeframe that has passed, it is likely it would not have been discussed again until another issue would come up or, in this case, The Daily Republic brought it up,” Christensen said.
Price said he is disappointed in what he considers sensationalism of the story by The Daily Republic, particularly addressing an editorial printed Tuesday that was critical of the board’s reaction to Graves’ late sharing of information.
“Dr. Graves said he was completely to blame and he was at fault,” Price said. “I’m disappointed that the words ‘cover-up’ were used because it was just sensationalism.”
None of The Daily Republic’s coverage of the incident — including the initial report and the following opinion piece — used the phrase “cover-up,” nor did reporters use the phrase when interviewing sources.
Graves admitted to the error in not informing the school board in a guest column on Page 4 of today’s newspaper.
He wrote that he had no intention of covering up the probation or the rule violation and simply forgot to tell the board.