Author: Jonathan Herrmann and Jeremy Styron Source: News-Herald
Loudon County Director of Schools Jason Vance and Greenback School Principal Barbara Bradley explained the decision to fire long-time basketball coach and math teacher Ed McCollum, saying Wednesday they felt it in the school's best interest to hire a full-time teacher.
"My main decision was to go forward and talk to the director of schools," Bradley said. "He was going to allow me to hire a full-time math person so we could actually incorporate all the maths that are needed. The history here, I guess, from math is that they have actually lost 1.5 teachers the last five to 10 years.
"Now that the state is asking us to teach more math, then we have to bring back a full-time teacher in order for that to happen here at Greenback," she said.
McCollum, who coached at Greenback for more than 30 years and attended as a student, had been working part time as a teacher for the last two years, having retired from his full-time teaching position.
"I wasn't here at the time, so I'm assuming there was a need for that teaching position in order to get the courses," Bradley said of McCollum working as a retired, part-time employee. "If you read the legislature, the bill says retired people can be rehired if there aren't candidates available, and we have several candidates available."
Vance echoed the decision to move in the direction of a full-time teacher to replace McCollum but would elaborate no further and did not address in what way athletics did or did not impact the decision.
"I just think we felt, at this time, it would be good to move in a different direction," Vance said. "I'm probably not going to say a whole lot more than that."
During the Loudon County Board of Education meeting Thursday, numerous residents told the board that they were not pleased with the way McCollum's firing was handled.
John Knight, who has a daughter on the basketball team, said McCollum should have gotten a better exit.
"I believe a man with these kinds of accolades deserved more than a letter," Knight said. "If this was a plan as it has been shared with some of the parents, why not approach Eddie in a professional manner and say, 'Coach McCollum, here's where we are. We can't bring you back next year. You're a great man. You're a great coach. You've done great things for our community. We'd like to honor you. We'd like to give you the opportunity for one last ride'."
Kassidi Knight, a freshman on the team, urged the school system to recognize McCollum's legacy at Greenback.
"I do not agree with the way things were handled with Coach McCollum," Kassidi said. "I don't think it was right morally or in a business fashion. I don't agree with it, but I realize that he is gone. I come here tonight to speak for my team and to ask that something be done to honor him. I think 35 years is a long enough time to be honored."
Another parent, Jim Rhyne, said the community should move forward and throw its support behind the person who will replace McCollum as the basketball coach.
"This is about the girls, and I want us to move on," Rhyne said. "Whoever the new coach is going to be, let's support her. Let's support the kids. They've got a great team coming back.
"Whoever the new coach is, let's support and let's get these girls fired up and let them play some basketball, and let's leave all the politics behind and do the right thing from the top down," he said, "and I think we'll all be better in the long run for it."
McCollum's sister, Terri Johnson, also advised that the school and community look toward the future. "I don't want bitterness," she said. "I don't want anger. I want to go forward and be positive."
During a separate interview, Vance complimented McCollum on the time he has given to Greenback High School saying he "is a great man."
"There's no big story here," Bradley said. "No offenses to Mr. McCollum. He was retired and working part time. A lot of people don't think we need as many teachers as we have because we're so small, but yet we are required by the state to teach the same amount of subjects as everyone else. That was the main decision for going to a full-time teacher."