Friday, February 21, 2014

in defense.

There are many times in life I wonder why. I wonder why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. I wonder why someone ever invented panty hose? I wonder why God decided to make this Earth the way it is. I wonder why people are so mean? 

When I was younger, my mom used to tell me that I was filled with "righteous indignation." At the time, it sounded like a spell a witch puts on you; however, now I consider it a great compliment. I watch others hurting and get filled with passion to speak out or do something to make it change. One of my favorite shows is "What Would You Do" put on by John Quiñones. I watch these episodes designed to have people step in and speak up for someone else in a difficult position. I've often struggled with knowing when to speak up for others, especially when my passion is strong, and still maintain my own integrity and character in the process. 

At this point in time, I feel it necessary to speak up for a man I truly respect and admire: 

Coach Jim Rowland 

Recently, an article was published in the local paper that called into question Coach Rowland's character and accused him of running a "good ole boy system" in the Fort Smith Public School's athletic department. While everyone is entitled to his own opinion, I also feel it is necessary to publish facts when the article is published in anything other than the opinion section. There were no concrete details, only accusations based on "whispers and stories" from people in this area. And let's face it, if you're getting information from dads of junior high and high school kids, you know your information will be embarrassingly wrong. 

So let's talk about Coach Rowland. He started working in the Fort Smith Public School system  in 1963. He was a track and football coach at Darby Junior High and then moved to be an assistant football coach at Northside High School for 4 years. In 1970, he transitioned to become the head football coach at Southside High School for 12 years. In 1982, he was Southside's assistant principal until 1991 where he became the Fort Smith Athletic Director, which is the title he still holds 23 years later. 

One of the points made in this article is how awkward it must be for players from Northside to come to play at Southside when the stadium is named after the Athletic Director. First of all, I highly doubt that players will ever care about the name of a stadium. That has to be the last thing on their mind on Friday night.  Secondly, what is wrong with honoring a man who has been devoted to ALL Fort Smith schools since 1963? Most cities (until recently) in this district haven't had to encounter NEAR the amount of balancing and work that Fort Smith has had just by having 2 high schools in the same town. Some may say there is favoritism over the other, but neither school has received any upgrade (turf, indoor facility, etc) that the other hasn't also received as well. This put Fort Smith as a whole behind other schools, but it was what was fair. Lastly, the Fort Smith School Board was responsible for voting that the stadium be named after Coach Rowland.... and rightfully so. The man deserved it and still continues to deserve it. What other stadium/arena/venue would have been renamed for him? This was a perfect opportunity, and I was honored to watch its dedication. 

I've never known a harder working man than Coach Rowland. Growing up in the Fort Smith Public School system basically my entire life, I've seen this man at almost every sporting event I attended.... and not even just the games. He's at practices and meetings and painting football fields at 5 in the morning and mowing grass and meeting with horrible, awful parents who just want to complain about anything... all in between riding his bike daily, loving a breathtakingly beautiful wife, raising a loving family, and having fun with his grandchildren. I honestly don't know how he does it, especially when there are people as bold and as rude enough to criticize the job he has done. 

I'm sure after working in that position since 1991, there have been a few mistakes made. The writer pointed out how the "whispers and stories and allegations" he heard were about people sneaking their kids across town to play sports in a different district. I wonder how a man as busy as Coach Rowland is doesn't have time to investigate and study these things? I wonder how a man with a schedule as full doesn't think to follow and go door-to door after every address is turned in at every school at the beginning of every season and verify that each athlete currently resides at each address? If you want to hold someone responsible for kids going to school in the wrong district, how about their parents? When did we fall so far away that we have to blame administration for something that wouldn't be a problem if parents did the right thing? If there's a finger to point, it's with the kids' parents forging documents and lying for their children, not with the athletic director. 
All of this to say, I wonder why this man decided to publish this article? What was the purpose? He stated many times that Coach Rowland should retire. I'm assuming that will probably happen. Why state the obvious? Of course Coach Rowland will retire. I don't think he even wants to work this hard forever. So why even say it? Why drag someone's name through mud just to make a point that someone without Fort Smith ties needs to be hired? The article could have easily been written without all of the nonsense published for the entire city to read.  The writer mentioned "powerful leaders" in the school system including Dr. Gooden, Mr. Haver, and Dr. McDonald, and went out of his way to EXCLUDE Coach Rowland from this group. My sir, how wrong you are. If you knew this man at all, you'd have a different story.

And after I read the article, I was hurt.

 I was hurt because this man has been my mom's boss for nearly 15 years. I know this man. He's watched me grow up. I've seen him come to practices in the summer Arkansas heat to check out the teams and encourage the coaches. I've seen players and coaches get hushed and quiet and show respect that you can feel down in your bones for this man. I've watched him come in and out of that athletic office, walking with that rushed, forward leaning walk only he has. I've heard him handle stressful situations and parents who are unbelievably rude/clueless with class and respect. I've watched him care for my mom and be a wonderful boss to her. I've seen him get up from his busiest days behind his desk just to come out and ask me about life and how I'm doing. I've witnessed him lose his lifelong friend as well as his long-time secretary to cancer and grieve for friends and colleagues in difficult situations.

Good ole boy system you say? 

Who I know is a good man. 
im thankful.
carrie anne

Coach Rowland and I after State Bowling Championship in 2005. Rebs won!


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