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"HOME OF THE ENCHANTED COFFEE"
Winning Coach Loses Job
By DEBORAH BELL
Holly Nuber, coach of the Pearland High
School "Lady Oilers" had led her team to
a state championship this year, but after
the May 18 victory she received a poor
evaluation and was relieved of her
coaching duties. Nuber, the first and only
female health teacher at the school has
been employed by Pearland Independent School District for six years. Last
year the team made it to the state district
5A playoffs. The team was invited to the
Astrodome after their championship
win and Nuber was honored to throw out
the gameball. The joy of that victory has
now turned sour, even though as she told
the crying girls from the team when they
heard of her dismissal, "They can never
take away what we did Ihis year."
Filing a grievance to be reinstated,
Nuber claims that she was unfairly evaluated by Athletic Director Van Nelson
and has suffered both sexual discrimination and bias due to her perceived sexual orientation. Nelson has expressed
anti-gay sentiments a number of times
according to witnesses allegedly stating, "We don't want that lifestyle in
Pearland. We want positive role models for our kids." Susan Lenamon, PISD
communications director said in an
interview with Channel 2 News, "That
would not matter to the district. Sexual
orientation is a private matter.'" She
also reports that the district has not faced
any legal action due to sexual discrimination to her knowledge and that this is
the first such charge against Nelson in his
3 years with the district.
The distribution of a book called
"Enough is Enough" by a Baptist Church
in Pearland is also cited as being responsible for instigation of this episode.
One chapter is titled "Out of the Closet
and into the Classroom." The testimony of witnesses will be crucial io
Nuber winning her case, and it is feared
lhal many will not come forward wilh support due to a possible "witch hunt,"
especially by other teachers who fear
loss of their jobs.
Nuber. herself named All American
Outfielder in 1985 and 1986 while playing for Stephen F. Austin, said that her
evaluations over the years by Nelson
were very critical, with what seemed to
be nit-picking and many things she felt
unfairly criticized for. "When I would
receive a review 1 would feel really low,
really doubt myself... but I tried to use it as
an opportunity to learn from my mistakes... ways to do it better. Sure I make
mistakes but I try to improve. I love what I
do and really love working with the kids."
A number of parents also have been critical of her, but she says most of the parents and her team have stood by her. "I've
worked hard to build the program. The
team is a dynamic group of kids and I feel
privileged to have worked with them. I
also try to make sure that I've taught them
more than softball," Nuber expresses.
Asked to elaborate she says, "Well, if
they make an error in some way I tell them to
go a little slower, examine the way it was
made in the first place, and think of how it
can be corrected—don't make another
error by acting in haste. Like if you say
something in anger that you don't really
mean, then don't make it worse by not going
back and apologizing." Another example she offered was, "If you are doing
weight training and you end up with a
weight that is more than you can handle, go
back and use something a little lighter.
Just like in life, sometimes we take on more
than we can handle and we have to know
when something becomes a burden and
find ways to lighten our load."
Ken Oswwald, whose daughter was on the
team said that the championship could
not be credited to Nuber's coaching,
"the team would have won with or without
Denise Lee, a softball player who has
played on a championship winning
team said "There is absolutely no way the
team could have won without their coach.
No matter how talented the individual
players, they could not have been a winning team without a winning coach." She
continued, "a successful coach does
more than choose the line-up and call the
plays. She has to have the ability to instill
the inspiration to win, as this coach obviously did." After hearing of Nuber's success in her first year of teaching, working
with special education students in a
poverty stricken area in the Texas valley, one wonders what better role model
Nuber could be. One little boy who at the
age of nine could not yet read, also lacked
verbal skills so he could barely talk intelligibly and rarely said anything. He had
been abused and neglected most of his
life. Nuber took efforts to give him special
attention. One day she asked the class "If
you could have one wish come true, what
would it be?" Nuher was quite surprised
when he raised his hand in response. His
answer was to say his dearest dream was to
be able to read. After three weeks of working with him not only was he reading at a
primary level, but actually could assist
some of the other kids.
One of the things Nuber has been criticized for was that she did not wear her uniform to the games. "There are no uniforms," she says. According to her. Nelson issued maroon coaching shirts (team
colors are maroon & white) that were
"men's style" and asked that it be worn
wilh khaki or black "dockers" style
pants. "The shirt was of thin material and
I did not like the way it or the pants looked on
me. I wore the same clothes I wore last year
and there had not been a problem then."
Coaches in other sports also did not follow
Nelson's suggested "uniform" and did
not get in trouble for it.
The points of the grievance filed June 14,
are that Nuber was unfairly evaluated and
not renewed in her coaching duties for
reasons which are: 1) discriminatory
against her because she is female; 2) are
retaliatory because she had complained to the district's executive
director; 3) are retaliatory because she
exercised her first amendment rights to
speak out on issues of public concern
(sexual discrimination); and 4) are a
denial of her right to equal protection on
the basis of her sexual orientation.
Nuber retains her teaching position.
Asked how she feels about staying there,
especially if she does not win her grievance she says. "When I leave. I want it to be
on my own terms. Even with my case settled, win or lose, there are things that need
to be dealt with there."
Assistance and support may be offered
through contacting Attorney Darah
Headley at 286-3346.
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