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October 7, 2010 at 12:31 PM

E.R. volleyball coach chooses termination over resignation

Tanya Campbell attended Wednesday night’s volleyball match at Beamer as an Emerald Ridge fan rather than the team’s head coach, just hours after electing termination over resignation.

The Puyallup School District had placed Campbell, who was in her eighth season, on paid administrative leave Sept. 20. Following two hearings, Campbell’s union representative told her the district was giving her until noon Wednesday to resign or be terminated.

She said in a phone interview Thursday morning she felt resigning was as admission of wrong-doing and that she intends to file a grievance.

“I didn’t violate any school district policy or rule,” she said. “My union is completely on my side….No coach coaches for money. I’m doing this to clear my name and if I resigned I’d be admitting guilt and I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The termination apparently stems from a “team bonding” event Campbell organized Sept. 17, where players came to J.R.’s Whistle Stop in Spanaway to hear her karaoke, one of her favorite pasttimes. While alcohol is served in an area sectioned off for adults, the karaoke is done in a family area where no alcohol is allowed, a Whistle Stop spokesperson verified.

Campbell and the E.R. players were in the family section and the coach was not drinking alcohol. Some of the players then spent the night at Campbell’s home. The former coach said team sleepovers have been common over the past eight years.

A key factor the district took issue with is that a 15-year-old E.R. player met a 19-year-old man Campbell knows at the Whistle Stop that night. The following night the two met again, but the player apparently told her mother she was with Campbell instead.

Campbell, 38, said she did not know the player had lied, but admits she was aware the player and 19-yar-old were communicating.

As of Thursday morning, Campbell had not received a letter of termination, but a copy was obtained by The Seattle Times. In the seven-page document, supertintendent Tony Apostle said he would be recommending termination to the School Board on Oct. 25 for “serious misconduct.” He said Campbell “conducted inappropriate team building activities.”

Campbell admits she did not have “specific parent or building approval” for the karoeke event and sleepover. She hadn’t gotten them for most past team-bonding events or sleepovers. In his letter, Apostle said the action was equivalent to “nonprofessional conduct” that is in voilation of the Coaches Handbook.

“I still don’t believe I did anything wrong,” she said.

She said she has been emotionally distraught since being placed on leave.

“It’s been extremely stressful,” she said.

Campbell has coached club volleyball for 20 years and is active in the Washington State Coaches Association, compiling the state volleyball poll each season. She said her players and nearly all of the parents have been extremely supportive. All but one parent escorted her into the Beamer gym for Wednesday’s match and before it started players touched their lips and hearts before gesturing to her in the stands.

“I cried all night,” she said.

Emerald Ridge won the match in straight sets to improve to 3-0 in the South Puget Sound League 4A South Division.

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