This article was updated Friday morning with additional comments from Brian Clebowicz.
A standing-room-only crowd, the majority baseball fans, congregated at the Manhattan Beach Unified School District Board meeting Wednesday where administrators heard from both sides regarding the status of Mira Costa High School head varsity baseball coach Cassidy Olson.
After a group of parents filed numerous complaints against Olson, a lengthy interview process of parents and players was held and in December, Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale sent a letter to the parents stating “From now through March 24, Coach Olson will coach during sixth period only but will not be present at scrimmages, games, tournaments or any other team activities that take place outside of the regular school day.”
Brian Clebowicz, who was instrumental in having the “Baseball Program” placed on the MBUSD agenda, represented the group of parents seeking Olson’s resignation or dismissal.
Clebowicz has a son in the baseball program and spoke on behalf of the 37 parents who filed the complaint against Olson, pointing out the coach’s insubordination and that underlying issues still have not been fully addressed. He concluded by saying that the situation remains an administrative problem that will only be solved by Olson’s removal.
He pointed out a meeting called by Olson early this year.
“In direct defiance and under color of his position as head coach, Cass Olson called a 7 p.m., January 10th “emergency meeting” with players and parents in which he railed against those who filed complaints or left for other schools,” Clebowicz said. “He threatened to derail the 2013 season if parents didn’t press to lift his restrictions immediately, stating: ‘…we as coaches, we are not going to accept any sort of restrictions…’, and ‘…(if) we see a point where we don’t think that’s a possibility, we’re of the opinion that all or nothing is the best thing…for you.’ Superintendant Matthews has a recording of this ill-advised speech.”
Clebowicz added: “This is not a baseball problem. It’s an administrative problem with a misbehaving, insubordinate employee in a stipended position. Cass Olson was grossly insubordinate in holding an after school player meeting where he incited unrest in the community and insubordination in his assistant coaches, in direct defiance of his suspension. “
Mira Costa junior varsity head coach Andy Caine said that the coaches in the program have agreed to honor the restrictions levied on Olson, and that his supporters were not at the School Board meeting seeking full reinstatement of Olson’s coaching duties but rather to “react to the other side.”
“To be clear up front, there was absolutely no abuse of any kind, or from my perspective, any wrongdoing of any kind,” Caine said prior to the meeting. “JV and varsity practice together, so I was always there.”
Assistant varsity coaches had previously declined to hold after-school practices but began holding full practices last week in preparation for the season opener – a double header against Santa Margarita on Feb. 23.
Caine spoke at the meeting, noting “The allegations of these 37 persons… have all been proven to be false. The investigations conducted by the administration led to a recommendation by the athletic director and vice principal for a complete reinstatement of Coach Olson.”
Caine said there was no abuse or reason for concern for the wellbeing of the players.
“This outrage is defamation and malice, which is precisely the abuse and bullying they have complained of,” Caine said. “So now it is time for parents to let professionals do their job.”
Caine concluded by saying “For the sake of the community, the sake of the boys, let’s end this witch-hunt and let us play ball,” which drew applause.
Because the “Baseball Program” was on the agenda, the school board had the option of responding after hearing both sides of the issue but declined and is not expected to take any action.
One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said two players in the Mira Costa baseball program transferred to other local schools because of Olson’s tactics.
Thom Simmons, the CIF Southern Section Director of Communication, stated: “If the school feels he (Olson) did enough things wrong to suspend him for that length of time, it is difficult for us to look at Hardship Waiver requests from these kids and not believe there is some merit to them.
“The CIF-SS did no investigations as the school had done their due diligence on the issue as is their and every member school’s responsibility,” Simmons said.