Shortly before the start of the 2018 season, Paso Robles High School dismissed its softball coach following a months-long dispute between him and players and their parents. The separation marked the third time in the last year that the school cut ties with a coach amid a community controversy. [Tribune]
Berkley Baker, who served as head softball coach for just one year, alleged some of his players engaged in serious misbehavior. However, parents claimed Baker used harsh coaching tactics while wrongfully accusing some of his players of bullying.
Both sides brought their allegations to school officials, and last Tuesday, the issue arose at a Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board meeting. Several days later, Paso Robles High informed Baker he would not be allowed to return to coach the team this spring. A district spokesperson explained the move by saying Baker’s coaching contract was not renewed.
Late in the 2017 season, Baker reported two separate instances of misbehavior among his players to Paso Robles High School’s athletic director, the coach said. The coach said the events were serious enough for him to put his job on the line to do something about it.
Administrators ignored the allegations, deciding they were going to sweep the alleged misbehavior under the rug and cover it up, Baker said.
Parents of one softball player said Baker accused their daughter and other players of bullying teammates. The parents said the district investigated the incident and concluded that it did not call for punishment.
One parent also said Baker told his/her daughter that she would have a slim chance of making the team, and if she did return, she would be suspended for six weeks over an incident that happened last season.
At the school board meeting last week, a parent accused Baker of “fat shaming” players and giving preferential treatment to younger players whom he coached previously on his travel softball team.
Additionally, one parent said the disputes caused all five senior players to quit the team. But, now some of the girls plan to return and try out for the 2018 squad.
Baker, who previously served as a Paso Robles school district board member from 1992 to 1996, denied the allegations.
The dismissal of Baker follows two head football coaches parting ways with the school in a span of months over controversies that likewise involved the school board.
First, longtime Paso Robles High football coach and math teacher, Rich Schimke, lost his coaching job following a locker room incident in 2016 in which he poured syrup on the belly of a 17-year-old player and licked or pretended to lick the syrup. The incident was caught on camera and spread through online media, igniting a feud in the community, which was split for and against Schimke.
School officials replaced Schimke with former NFL linebacker Larry Grant, who ended up coaching only one game before parting ways with the school. Neither Grant nor the Paso Robles school district disclosed the reason for Grant’s sudden departure, but some media speculated it was related to the coach’s godson and nephew transferring into Paso Robles high under questionable circumstances in order to play football.
Following Grant’s departure, the controversy surrounding the school district’s handling of the football program grew when Schimke spoke during public comment at a school board meeting. Schimke expressed sympathy for Grant and criticized the school district, saying numerous officials knew there would be eligibility issues involving Grant’s relatives, yet they remained silent about the issue for months.