Timberview High School students protested in front of the Mansfield administration building Friday morning, chanting and carrying signs in an attempt to keep a popular coach.
The students became upset Thursday when they learned that Robert Owens, a popular Timberview coach and teacher, has been reassigned to Jobe Middle School. Hundreds rallied in the commons area at the school both days to pray and chant, and more than 1,000 signed a petition asking the administration to keep the coach.
Dora Tovar, whose daughter Mayan is a Timberview freshman and varsity softball player, said she got a call from her daughter just before noon Thursday and went to the school to make sure that things were all right.
“I asked (one of the police officers) ‘What are they protesting?’ And she said ‘They’re not protesting, they’re celebrating. One of the coaches is leaving,’” Tovar said.
Tovar said she saw at least 200 students in the commons area forming a circle, praying and holding signs that said “Keep Coach Owens.”
Owens has been at Timberview since the high school opened in 2004, serving as an assistant football and softball coach and head baseball coach for several years.
District spokesperson Richie Escovedo said he could not comment on personnel matters, but did confirm that Owens has been reassigned to Jobe Middle School.
“The individual was one of 75 across the district that is being transferred,” Escovedo said. “This is part of our saving jobs. We’re plugging holes and looking at needs across the district. Wherever we have a need to be filled, we’re doing our best to fill it internally.”
When sophomore Hunter Overall heard about Owens leaving Timberview on Thursday morning, she and other students knew they had to take action. The students started a petition, rounding up more than 1,000 names, almost half of the 2,353 students enrolled at the high school. Students began gathering in Owens’ room to sign the petition and the class soon became crowded, said senior Hayden Dalley.
An assistant principal told the students to move to the commons, he said, where people were already gathering for lunch. The students formed a prayer circle and began to chant “Keep Coach Owens,” he said. Other students made posters, which they hung around the cafeteria, and some made videos.
Thursday was a review day for students in preparation of final exams Friday, the last day of school. Some of the students were exempt from tests or had senior release and continued to gather signatures. Administrators told the others to return to their classrooms after the last lunch, Alexis Dalley said.
Owens, who started the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the campus and serves as the sponsor, was visibly upset, the students said. Owens could not be reached for comment.
“He just said he doesn’t understand why he heard about it (Wednesday) afternoon,” Dalley said. “He’s mad and he’s sad. He also teaches AP psychology so people all around the school know him.”
And like him.
“He’s like a dad,” Dalley said. “Anything I ever need, he’s right there.”
Students were also upset to learn Owens would not be announcing the seniors’ names as they walked across the stage at graduation Monday.
“They told him he couldn’t do that,” said sophomore Alexis Dalley. “If he wanted to be there, he would have to sit in the audience. When they told the students he was just being moved, we said if he’s just being moved why can’t he call out names at graduation?”
Escovedo understood that the students were upset.
“It’s not surprising you would have some hurt feelings,” he said. “We’re doing what we can so we don’t have to let anybody go.”
Escovedo said he had not heard of any plans to reassess Owens’ reassignment.
“Even if it doesn’t change their minds, we want Coach Owens to know how much he’s loved,” Overall said.
For more on the school district’s position, go to http://www.mansfieldisd.org/departments/communications/news/10-11/june/ths.htm.