Pennington Fights To Keep Jobs

Carl Pennington loves coaching basketball. He says he enjoys being around kids, helping them through tough times and being a father figure.

The 15-year Wichita Falls High School vet just finished up his eighth year as head basketball coach and expected to be back for a ninth.

But, Pennington received a "nonrenewal" letter from the district earlier this month.

"I was stunned," he said. "Both my evaluations were good (at WFHS and Washington Jackson Elementary, where he works in the cafeteria and handles disciplinary issues)."

Pennington will now battle to keep both his jobs at the monthly WFISD school board meeting tonight.

He won't be alone.

Landry Russell, a 2009 Old High graduate, started the Facebook event page "Help Coach Pennington Keep His Job". More than 60 people say they're going to the meeting, all to offer their support.

"As soon as I found out, I knew I had to do something to help," Russell said.

Another Facebook page, "Supports Carl Pennington" has more than 760 likes. Supporters on that page are urging people to flood the e-mail boxes of WFISD board members.

Pennington says the show of support reaffirms that he's doing something right, that he's touching kids' lives.

In the end, the board will decide Pennington's fate. Back in April 2010, they were in a similar situation. The board unanimously voted to renew Pennington's contract "with reservations".

A month later, Pennington released a written statement through the Times Record News, hoping to provide closure.

It read: "I would like to submit a public statement to put an end to any rumors surrounding the issue of my contract renewal. The only reason my job was in jeopardy was due to a conversation in which I was not forthcoming to Dr. (George) Kazanas and (athletic director) Kenny Catney. This created a climate with Dr. Kazanas which was eventually worked out."

"It had nothing to do with school finances, inappropriate conduct with children or any other staff members. I am looking forward to mending my relationship with Dr. Kazanas and reworking a level of communication.

"I have been coaching for 17 years. In this time, I have been a positive male role model for students on the court and off the court. I am looking to move forward and continue serving my basketball team and the students at WFHS."

School board president Reginald Blow says its inappropriate for himself or any other board member to comment on the current situation.

For Pennington, there's one reason why this year's "nonrenewal" is tough. He says he was given no reason on why his contract wasn't renewed and that he will only receive a reason if the board votes to not renew him for the following school year.

On the court, the 2011-12 Coyotes made the playoffs thanks to winning a final tiebreaking game to end the regular season, but Pennington was suspended for three games after being ejected from a December game.

The Wichita Falls Area Basketball Officials Association is not allowed to comment on specific referees or specific coaches.

Russell defends the coach, "Basketball's a confrontational sport, and that comes with the game. Players get suspended. Coaches get suspended."

The school board meeting started at 6 p.m. at the WFISD Education Building.

Pennington says, "I've made my home here. I want to stay here."