Hester won't appeal decision


Adam Minichino



Former New Hope High School baseball coach Stacy Hester said Monday he won''t appeal the decision of Lowndes County School District Superintendent Mike Halford not to retain him as the school''s baseball coach. 


Hester, whose last day as the school''s baseball coach was June 30, last month submitted written notification of his intention to appeal the recommendation of Halford and the subsequent 5-0 vote of the Lowndes County School Board to Halford and the five board members Friday at the next regularly scheduled school board meeting at the central office in Columbus. 


But Hester apparently changed his mind about pursuing his appeal after he received two letters from Halford dated June 25, 2009, that explained the ground rules for the appeal. 


The first letter (RE: Stacy Hester -- Request for Appeal) informed Hester that "since you are not being Terminated (sic) or Non-Renewed (sic) as a Certified Employee (sic), pursuant to Title 37 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 as amended, you are not entitled to a hearing on this reassignment or removal of Coaching Duties (sic). 


"Therefore, your request for an Appeal (sic) to the Board of Education, can not be granted as same is not allowed by law." 


The second letter (Re: Request to appear before the School Board) informed Hester he would be able to make a presentation (10 minutes) to the school board members in executive session. It went on to state that "your presentation will not involve an appeal of the decision to non renew your at-will agreement to coach baseball at New Hope High School. The board will not entertain any appeal of the decision nor will they (sic) take any action to reverse the decision." 


Attempts to reach Halford at his office and on his cell phone Monday weren''t successful. 


Lowndes County School Board President Dr. Robert Buckley referred all questions to Jeff Smith, the lawyer for the school district. 


Smith, who has represented the school district for 19 years, said Hester''s intention to appeal wasn''t "unprecedented," but that he has seen only a few employees come before the school board to appeal personnel decisions. 


In those cases, Smith said, the employees were certified, which means they had more rights than Hester, whose coaching job was an at-will position.  


Coaches who are at-will employees don''t have to be given reasons if their positions aren''t renewed. 


Even though the letters stipulated the conditions for Hester''s appearance before the school board, Smith said Hester would be able to appear as a citizen and try to convince any of the board members to reconsider the decision not to renew his contract as New Hope High''s baseball coach. 


Hester said he remains frustrated he hasn''t been given a reason why he was not retained after a 25-11 season in which he led New Hope to the North Half state finals, where it lost to eventual state champion West Lauderdale. 


Hester won 551 games and three state titles in 18 years as baseball coach at New Hope High. 


He said Halford still hasn''t spoken to him about his decision and that it is unfortunate that so many lies have been said about him, his coaching methods, and how he treated his players. 


"I am not guilty of the things they say I am guilty of," Hester said. 


While disappointed he will not return as New Hope High baseball coach, Hester thanked the people who supported him in his time as the school''s coach and in the past three months as the situation unfolded. 


"There were a lot of people in the community who allowed us to have success because of their donations and their support," Hester said. "I know I haven''t done anything wrong. It really is a shame and it is sad the way this whole thing went down, but I am prepared to go on and I have gotten over the shock that it didn''t work out. I want to thank all of the people who supported me for 18 years and all of the former players who went on to play in college ball and who became good citizens." 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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