Some Northwest High parents question dismissal of track coach

Several Northwest High School parents are starting a petition seeking to reinstate track coach Michael Lee and are asking Superintendent Karen Rue to censure football coach Bill Patterson, whom they blame for Lee's ouster.

C.J. and Kim Young were among about two dozen parents and track team members who attended Monday's school board meeting to demand that Lee get his job back. They also want the school district to investigate why he was relieved of his duties.

The Youngs said their son Allen and Ne-Ko Henderson's son, Anton, were kicked off the team Monday afternoon after Lee's reassignment was announced.

District officials said the teens quit. C.J. Young said he also removed his younger son and his daughter from athletics.

C.J. Young said he sent an e-mail this week to the University Interscholastic League but has not filed a formal complaint asking for an investigation into allegations that Patterson violated the rules for offseason football practices.

Northwest spokeswoman Lesley Weaver said the district had not been made aware of any UIL violations. "Should parents choose to file a complaint about a violation, we will cooperate fully with the UIL investigation," Rue said.

UIL officials did not respond to several messages, but if complaints are made about rules violations, they are usually investigated by the executive committee of the UIL district in which the school participates. Northwest is a member of District 4-5A.

The Youngs said they were not pleased with the way Northwest handled Lee's removal.

Kim Young said her sons, Jabari and Allen, called her from school and said several track team members were summoned to the administrative offices to give statements.

"I see that as an attempt to intimidate kids," she said.

C.J. Young said students who participated in both football and track were required to do football drills before they could practice track. He believes that Lee was removed because he objected to Patterson's doing that.

C.J. Young also said he doesn't believe that an investigation by school district officials will accomplish anything.

"My wife and I met with executive athletic director Susan Elza and she is 100 percent behind coach Bill Patterson," C.J. Young said. "She doesn't feel that the track program is in jeopardy even though the top four sprinters and the head coach are no longer a part of the program. They have been working together since November."

Elza did not respond to a message seeking comment. But Weaver said that the decision to remove Lee was made during a Feb. 23 meeting among Lee, Patterson and Elza.

"This was not Coach Patterson's decision alone," Weaver said. "Executive director Elza supported Coach Patterson in this decision. Susan said it was in the best interest of the students to reassign his coaching duties. He was not fired. We thought they all were in agreement, including Coach Lee."

In an e-mail to the Star-Telegram, Patterson said: "We make decisions based on what is best for our students and athletes at Northwest High School. I am confident our track program will move forward and represent Northwest High School in a positive manner."

Weaver said the current investigation, requested by parents and agreed to by the school district, is not to determine whether Patterson's decision to reassign Lee was correct. Rather, district officials are interviewing students and adults about allegations that Patterson kicked some students off the track team after Lee's removal.

She said those allegations are not true and suggested that some students may have quit out of anger and might be allowed to return.

Lee, a calculus teacher who had coached track at Northwest for about eight years, declined to comment. He became head track coach in 2010-11, Weaver said.

Martha Deller, 817-431-2231

Twitter: @NETarrantNews