Hiring of Farmington basketball coach draws ire from some

Interview process questioned

The Farmington varsity boys basketball team has a head coach, but a few members of the community asked the Farmington School Board during Monday’s meeting to start the hiring process over.

The School Board still approved the hiring of Tharen Johnson as head boys basketball coach after listening to several community members both support and question the hire.

Johnson served as the assistant boys basketball coach during former coach Shane Wyandt’s tenure. Johnson coached the junior varsity team along with youth basketball programs in Farmington for the past 13 years.

Superintendent Jay Haugen said, based on Johnson’s abundance of experience and knowledge, it was his pleasure to recommend the hiring.

Normally coaching jobs are placed on the consent agenda, but given the attention, it was placed on the administrative action portion.

The approval wasn’t unanimous. Board Member Laura Beem said she felt the district didn’t use best practice in the hiring process.

Dave Finlayson, Community Education in-house basketball director, said the interview process was flawed and biased. As a member of the search committee, he said members never met to discuss the candidates following the interviews.

He said he filled out a ranking sheet, but questioned whether the rankings were followed.

He also questioned why a School Board member was part of the search team.

However, Heather Bean, president of the boys basketball booster club, said she participated in the interview process and said it was clear that opinions and feedback were welcome, but it was well understood that the decision was up to the administration.

She was in full support of the hire.

Finlayson also alleged that there were inappropriate comments asked of the coaching candidates by the administration and urged the School Board to deny the approval and review their hiring process.

Concnerned parent and coach John Reed said he felt the public reaction and rumors surrounding the hire were inappropriate.

He felt the opposition group was upset they didn’t pick their candidate and he felt confident in the administration’s decision.

Todd Hayes, in-house basketball supporter and coach, alleged that varsity basketball coaches failed to reinvest the profits from summer basketball camps in the past.

Donald Hedquist, who has boys in the program and is a member of the booster club, said when he asked Johnson about the revenue from camps, Johnson said he had no insight or control over what happened in the past and funds would be reinvested going forward.

Hedquist said the vast majority of parents and players favor the hire.

Kevin Hunt  who has a background in traveling basketball and knows the coaching staff, said Johnson’s commitment to the players were never in doubt and he often volunteers his time with no compensation.

A group of five others asked the board to vote no.

Beem said because a School Board member was part of the search committee and community members were allowed to rank the candidates, which was not best practice, she would vote no.

Haugen said, while the hiring process varies for each person, there was nothing substantially different from the hiring of the other three varsity coaches and the district’s practice is not that different than other districts.

Boys lacrosse coach Kevin Dunnigan, boys hockey coach Lee Goren and boys tennis coach Blake Olmscheid were all officially hired as part of the consent agenda during Monday’s meeting.

No law was violated during the process, Haugen said.

The School Board approved the hiring 3-1. School Board Member Steve Corraro was absent and Jake Cordes, Melissa Sauser and Julie Singewald voted yes. The School Board is currently a member short due to Tera Lee resigning to become a full-time teacher within the district.

Cordes said he trusted the decision made by the administration.

“They know basketball,” Cordes said. “They know students.