On September 16th, Escambia High School’s football coach Willie Spears was terminated on a 3-2 vote. However, days after the vote, interested and concerned supporters for Spears and the student athletes continue to converse to determine if there are steps that can be taken on behalf of all affected parties. The Pensacola Voice has learned that Linda Moultrie, as School Board Chair, has requested a special board meeting to discuss several issues related to the FHSAA investigation. The meeting scheduled for September 30th has an agenda that has been posted on the school board’s website.
The Special Meeting Agenda as depicted on the School Board’s website is as follows: I.) Call to Order/Adoption of Agenda; II.) Physical Security at School Board Properties; III.) Eligibility Concerns Re: Student Athletes (Investigation); IV.) Proposed Policy for Transfer of Student Athletes; V. ) Due Process in Student Athletics Investigations; VI.) Public Forum; VII.) Adjournment. According to school district sources, this special meeting will not further delve into the termination of Coach Spears. However, the reasons for the firing of Spears and the investigation by the FHSAA continue to be addressed by the school board.
In retrospect, Linda Moultrie and Gerald Boone voted against Escambia County Schools Superintendent Malcolm Thomas’s recommendation for termination and Jeff Bergosh, Patty Hightower and Bill Slayton voted in favor of termination. The superintendent stands by his decision. He states he offered Coach Spears an opportunity to resign, which he did not accept. Therefore, because of the level of insubordination of purposely playing the athletes, his involvement in the community rally supporting him, and the high profile media campaign, Superintendent Thomas felt termination was a justifiable course of action.
Following the vote, Coach Spears was asked by the Pensacola Voice how he felt about the outcome and he stated, “It’s an injustice. They said I was insubordinate for the sake of being insubordinate. I was very careful before I played those young men. I talked to the State, the FHSAA, and they said they could play. The district said they were not involved in it at all, and then I waited to see if the other transfers played the night before we played. We had the luxury of playing on Saturday. Every transfer in the district played. Over 20 transferred players were allowed to play. Only one was not allowed to play. So I played our players. And I told the principal. He knew I was going to play them because in May he promised me that they would be able to play. He gave me his word that they would be able to play. Since he gave me his word I gave the children my word. He went back on his word I stuck to my word to a fault that I have been fired.
Spears went on to share, “I have been an educator for thirteen years, nominated for teacher of the year for ten years, been coach of the year for four times and I have never been insubordinate”. Spears is continuing his professional speaking engagements as he will soon be in New Mexico speaking at a regional conference of school board representatives and educators.