October 2, 2009 9:37:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- The Northeast Mississippi Officials Association, the Aberdeen Police Department and Aberdeen High School resolved differences Wednesday that stemmed from an incident last week at an Aberdeen High home football game.
The resolution between the parties means the NMOA will send football officials to Aberdeen High on Friday to work the school''s 7 p.m. home game against Winona.
On Tuesday, NMOA assigning secretary Larry Riley said his organization would not send officials to work the game if the circumstances of Friday''s incident between an NMOA official who worked Aberdeen High''s game against Houston and a member of the APD were not resolved. Riley said the NMOA wanted Aberdeen High and the police department to apologize to the official and to dismiss the ticket.
Riley said Aberdeen High didn''t have game management officials in place to protect and to care for the officials after the game. As a result, the official in question, who Riley didn''t want to name, was stopped as he tried the exit the stadium area after the game.
Riley said the official honked at police officers as he tried to leave the school grounds. He said the official then was stopped and issued a ticket for reckless driving.
Aberdeen High School Principal Reedell Holmes said Wednesday morning he saw members of the police department escort the officials to their cars. He said he was told the football official left the field and got into his vehicle and was traveling up on the road to leave when he almost hit two police officers and a couple of children. Furthermore, Holmes was told police officers were trying to escort the official out of the gated area but he didn''t go in the direction he was told, the principal said.
Holmes also heard reports the official had a bad attitude after he was stopped and given a ticket.
Despite some anxious moments in the meeting that lasted one hour and 30 minutes, all of the parties reached an agreement.
Riley, who didn''t attend the meeting, credited NMOA President John Allmond and NMOA assistant assigning secretary Earnest Williams for helping to resolve the matter.
"Earnest Williams was very instrumental in working out the details, so if anybody gets credit he ought to," said Allmond, who, like Williams, lives in Aberdeen. "He personally knew both parties involved and he intervened on behalf of both of them and was able to work it out."
The meeting included Aberdeen School District Superintendent Chester Leigh; Aberdeen High Athletic Director Dr. Wendy McCullough, who was a game management official at the game in question; Holmes; Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle; Allmond; and Williams. The official in question participated in the meeting by telephone.
Williams, who was recognized as the 2008-09 NMOA Football Official of the Year from the district, said he didn''t want to see anyone penalized as a result of the incident. He said he remained quiet for most of the meeting until the very end when he spoke up and helped both sides put their differences aside.
"I let people take shots at each other, but I realized that wasn''t going to get it resolved," said Williams, a 1987 graduate of Aberdeen High and an official for 16 years. "I started to talk about positive things and things we could have done better, and everybody came together from there.
"Anytime in a negotiating situation there is a little give and take. If we couldn''t get something resolved out of the meeting the only parties hurt by this would have been the kids. They hadn''t done anything and had nothing to do with the situation. I understand people can get a little hot and hairy, but I looked at both sides and what was going on and I tried to help meet the needs and see what we could do to get past this."
Williams, who doesn''t have a background in labor negotiations, credited the teaching of his mentor and his pastor, Alonzo Sykes of the Daniel Missionary Baptist Church in Aberdeen, for helping him help everyone find common ground.
Riley and Allmond said they were pleased the official in question''s ticket will be "retired to the file," according to Randle, and that he received an apologies from both parties. They also are satisfied Aberdeen High will implement a game-management plan that will care for and protect their officials at the school.
"I hope other schools that may not have exit programs that are as good as they need to be take notice and make it better for everybody in all districts and make it easier for officials to leave the game areas," Riley said. "Allmond and Earnest Williams did a heck of a job. I had given up hope anything was going to be worked out. They both represented us well. They are just good community people. Without their hard work this would have never ended like it did. Now it''s time to make something positive out of it."
Leigh said Thursday morning he was happy to have the situation resolved.
"It was a very unfortunate incident and we deeply regret the Aberdeen School District was involved," Leigh said. "I know we all had our different views of the incident, and we left the meeting all satisfied with the outcome."
Leigh said the school district always had a game management plan in place to care and to protect officials. He said all of the rain last week forced Aberdeen High to alter its plan for the game, which forced the game management officials to have football officials park in a different location.
Leigh said this incident forced the school district to re-examine how it manages game activities, particularly the care and protection of officials, and to see if there are any other matters that need to be changed.
Leigh hopes all of the parties involved in the incident will be able to learn from it.
"We need always to remember to put kids first," Leigh said. "We have approximately 60 kids and coaches (on the Aberdeen High football team) who have been working very hard this year and who want this year to be a successful year. ... We wanted the kids to be able to play a home game in Aberdeen, so as a district we were going to do whatever was possible as soon as we were informed of (the incident) to fix some things."
Randle said he found it "hard to believe" a traffic violation would deter the officials from coming back to work a game at Aberdeen High, so he was glad to be involved with the meeting and do what he could to help the matter be resolved. He said the police officer and the football official came to an agreement that things could have been handled differently and apologies were given.
"I don''t want anyone to feel threatened by the officers," Randle said. "If there should be any problem I am always able to be contacted."
Randle said the police department will use the incident as a learning experience. He said police officers will be "more attentive" to the needs of the football officials and that one or two additional police officers will be assigned to work Aberdeen High home football game. He said those officers will be assigned to help the officials with any problems and to assist them when they leave the school grounds.
Holmes couldn''t be reached for comment this morning.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
fasi commented at 10/2/2009 7:55:00 AM:
This reads better than the "Beer Summit".
1. Last two antebellum homes in Starkville for sale; one could be torn down STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
2. MDOT unveils Highway 82 interchange improvements COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Letting out their 'inner geek': Second Columbus Comic Con bigger, better than last year COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Sheriff: New deputy hires will expand shift coverage STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Council approves $232K in employee raises COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY