Less than 24 hours after listening an outpouring of support for Darren McKay, Peninsula School District superintendent Terry Bouck fired Gig Harbor High’s football coach Friday afternoon.
“Guess I’m going to have to update my résumé,” said McKay, who led the Tides for 12 seasons.
Since December, McKay has been fighting the district’s decision to place him on an improvement plan by filing a grievance. The plan called for him to fire two assistant coaches – his father Mike and brother Sean.
The grievance has reached the state level and, to McKay’s knowledge, has not been resolved. Still, on Friday he was given a termination letter which cited his failure to cooperate with the improvement plan and not showing satisfactory improvement to his evaluators, McKay said.
“I got fired for standing up to (the district),” he said.
Bouck said it was his decision to not renew McKay’s coaching contract. He said McKay was offered a plan for improvement and had not made enough progress.
In December, McKay received a positive end-of-season review from athletic director Dale Johnson. Days later, he met with principal Ted Strong, who told McKay that he must consent to the improvement plan to remain as head coach.
According to some of the 35 people who spoke out in favor of McKay at Thursday’s school board meeting, the district used results of anonymous online surveys to reach its judgment – a conclusion McKay’s supporters called inaccurate.
After the initial meeting with Johnson and Strong, who has been on administrative leave since March when he was arrested for DUI and misdemeanor hit-and-run, McKay was required to attend follow-up sessions to track his progress. At one session, Strong suggested to McKay he attend a coaching clinic to show his effort to follow the plan. McKay said he already planned to attend the clinic – as an invited speaker.
At Thursday’s school board meeting, Bouck, who is retiring in June, said he appreciated hearing public comments, which came from players, parents of current and former players, assistant coaches, teaching colleagues and a rival head coach, among others. No speakers supported the removal of the McKay from the football program.
“This meeting was for us to listen,” Bouck said Thursday. “We’re processing it right now.”
The public’s words, apparently, were not enough to sway Bouck.
Ray Garries, chairman of Gig Harbor football boosters, was frustrated McKay was fired so quickly.
“Kind of shocked it happened 12, 18 hours later,” he said. “One of the things we all asked for is transparency and consideration, to see what the problems were. Obviously, that was ignored.
“I’m stunned at the speed of how this happened.”
McKay, who compiled a record of 77-41 at Gig Harbor, said he wants to coach again and will consider his options. His youngest son Carter, who plays football, is a sophomore at Gig Harbor.