The Marengo Community High School District #154 board and members of the community discussed the possibility of dis-missing two school coaches and Physical Education teachers’ positions at a meeting on March 21 at the high school.
Jeff Dobbertin, tenured PE teacher and head baseball coach, was honorably dismissed at the meeting due to, “lack of funds and declining enrollment,” said Dr. Dan Bertrand, Superintendent of MCHS District #154. Bertrand said action will be taken on April 11, 2011 to, “dismiss non-tenured PE teacher/head wrestling coach, Mike Crane, for the same reasons.”
“They are not being replaced due to declining enrollment and trying to reduce a projected $592,000 budget deficit for next year,” Bertrand said. “This year’s budget deficit is $535,000. The two reductions in staff will result in a savings of $115,000. Both staff members could continue as coaches if they wanted to do so. Only their teaching positions are being eliminated.”
The cuts will not affect the wrestling program, other than the need to hire a new head wrestling coach, Bertrand said. He said a number of cuts are being considered to reduce the deficit $200,000 to $300,000.
“Both are outstanding teachers and members of the staff whom we regretfully have to dismiss,” he said. “The board’s decision is based purely on trying to control the district’s deficit and make staff reductions when possible.”
Several community members spoke in support of Dobbertin and Crane, who were both former graduates of MCHS.
Crane, who graduated from MCHS in 1999, said he was teaching in Nebraska when he was called back to interview for a job as head wrestling coach and PE instructor for MCHS four years ago.
“Our coaching staff consists of almost ev-eryone that’s wrestled [at MCHS],” Crane said. “I always talk about ‘we’re a family;’ and I told my team ‘we’re a family.’ With the support I got [at the meeting], I definitely know—it’s nice to see the support. Like I’ve told my kids—we’ll be fine; I’ll be fine, [but] there’s a good chance I will be moving.”
Crane said the MCHS Wrestling Program has ranked in the Top 20 the last two years, with five students at state in the last three years; 26 sectional qualifiers; 30 students in All-Conference; and 50 dual-meet wins.
“When, or if, I’m eliminated, there is a 99 percent chance [there] will not be an in-house coach for wrestling,” he said. “When that happens, there’s no one to watch the kids. There’s no one to get the kids to wrestle.”
Tim Keefer, assistant coach with Crane, who graduated from MCHS in 1985, said it’s “heartbreaking to see.” “If [students] were slacking during class, he was there to [motivate them],” Keefer said.
Angel Botzoc, a senior at MCHS, said Crane brought him into wrestling, when he was playing football. “I started out on JV and worked my way up,” Angel said. “Sophomore year, I started on varsity; and then from here on out, I’ve been starting on varsity. This year, I finally made it to the state tournament; and it was a blast.”
Angel said Dobbertin and Crane did much more for the students than just coach or teach them at school.
“They’ve done so much,” Angel said. “Dobbertin, he’s created a program with our lifting that’s made me better, and made our class better as a whole. With Crane, for me, he’s done more than enough. He’s supported me throughout everything, and not just with school and sports—but also in my personal life. [I’ve overcome a lot of things.] What these coaches have done, I can’t thank them any more.”
Marengo residents and parents of Angel, Reynolds and Jamie Botzco, said they have noticed a very positive impact on their son due to sports and Crane’s guidance. Jamie said her son was very depressed after his grandfather passed away. She said Crane and Dobbertin attended Angel’s grandfather’s funeral, which was approximately 65-miles away from Marengo.
“To do that for [my] child, to me, that shows an effort,” Jamie said. If we’re going to take something like that away, what do the kids have to look up to?”
Reynolds also said he saw how Crane helped Angel a lot. “He came to our house several times to check on our son and to make sure he was okay,” Reynolds said. “He took time from his family to come [over] and talk to my son.”
Carmen Sacco, an MCHS graduate in 2005 and an assistant wrestling coach at MCHS, said they will, “be losing two great members of the community,” since he, “does not think they will stick around.”
Jamee Sughroue, Crane’s fiancé and a Belvidere resident, said both teachers are qualified to teach other subjects and have their Masters Degrees. Sughroue said she also thinks the current costs that are funded for students through the district, such as Drivers’ Education, if paid for per family, could help fund a teacher’s position.
Robb Swanson, a Marengo resident and head coach for Marengo Youth Wrestling, said he has been involved with wrestling his whole life.
“The wrestling program is going to continue,” Swanson said. “We’re going to keep making it strong. But my concern is that we keep these two gentleman involved in the school system because they’re good influences on our teenagers.