Dismissal leads to friction between head coach and school
McCulloch calls Harmatz's actions
Harmatz criticizes coverage
By Gloria I. Wang
recent dismissal of a Los Gatos High School track coach has led to
a conflict of authority between the man's boss, head track coach
Willie Harmatz, and school administrators. Harmatz has apparently
defied the school by retaining the dismissed coach, while the
school's principal calls Harmatz's actions "inexcusable."
March 20, a letter from the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High
School District and LGHS was sent to sprinting and jumping coach
Chioke "Chee" Robinson. The letter informed Robinson of his
dismissal. Administrators are not permitted to discuss the reasons
for Robinson's abrupt dismissal because it is a personnel matter.
As a result, some mystery surrounds the school's decision.
Robinson had coached both the varsity and junior varsity
track teams for the past two track seasons. While he continues to
work with students after school hours as a personal trainer,
Principal Trudy McCulloch said, "It was made very clear that he
was not to be doing any coaching on our campus."
Harmatz, however, says that Robinson is still coaching
on-campus practices "every single day." He insists that the school
never dismissed Robinson and that the only letter sent to
Robinson, a year and a half ago, was about a CPR requirement, and
telling Robinson to "use some common sense" regarding an
attempt made to photograph Robinson by the Los Gatos Weekly-Times,
angered Harmatz, and he called the newspaper. When asked if he was
defying the administration's action about Robinson, Harmatz
replied, "Are you going to trust an administrator who hasn't
stepped foot down here and hasn't seen a track meet before?
don't you go down to the main office and take Trudy's picture?" he
said. "She does her job and I do mine."
response to Harmatz's allegations, McCulloch said that at least
one of the administrators, including herself, is always present at
every single track meet. "It is very clear that Chioke Robinson is
no longer employed by the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School
District as a coach," she said, adding that Harmatz's behavior is
second controversy arose when the LGHS student newspaper, El
Gato, ran an article about the dismissal on April 4. The
article mentioned some of the rumors about why Robinson was
dismissed. McCulloch denied that the rumored stories about
Robinson were true and said they did not factor into Robinson's
says that printing the rumors only serves to further spread them.
"It's the most ridiculous thing in the world," he said. "It's
disgusting." Harmatz says that Robinson could possibly file a
lawsuit against the student newspaper. He added that during the
week of April 15, Robinson met with McCulloch and the El
Gato faculty advisor, and the newspaper agreed to print a
Julie Alonzo, however, says that no such agreement was made.
McCulloch allowed El Gato to make its own decision, and
after conferring with newspaper staff, it was decided that a
retraction was not necessary.
legal point of view, there's nothing wrong legally with the
article," Alonzo said, since the article was intended to dispel
the rumors about Robinson.
the rumors had circulated on campus in the past. Harmatz says that
two years ago, two best friends on the track team had a fight over
a guy. "One girl decided to spread false rumors about the other
girl and [Robinson]," Harmatz said. "It was blown out of
been coaching for 25 years. I've gotten 20 [Central Coast Section]
championships for the school--more than any other high school
coach," Harmatz said. "I know what's going on in my team."
Madeline Collins, track parent, phoned the Weekly-Times,
and said that several parents had approached McCulloch with kind
words for Robinson. "He's just a kid," Collins said. "I'm not
saying that he's always been perfect, but I've never had the sense
that, 'Oh, he's weird.'"
Collins' daughter, Aly Chavez, has worked with Robinson on
the track team for two years and continues to practice with him.
Collins says that Robinson's behavior has never been
inappropriate, and mentions that when Chavez was sick, Robinson
came to her house with medication. "[Robinson's] just high-energy
and fun," Collins said. "He's a black guy in this uppity white Los
Attempts to reach Robinson for this article were
unsuccessful; although Harmatz said he was going to have Robinson
contact the Weekly-Times, no contact was made.
first called by the Weekly-Times for an interview by phone,
Harmatz angrily repeated that he had nothing to say. He did,
however, visit the newspaper's office minutes later, insisting
that an article should not be written.
later, an email, apparently from Harmatz, was sent to the
newspaper, saying, "You do not have my permission to quote me or
use my name in any other such article concerning news about
assistant coach Chee Robinson." The email was signed "Willie."
no agreement was ever made to keep conversations with Harmatz off
the record, the newspaper disregarded the email.
April 20, Harmatz called the Weekly-Times trying to get
information about what the newspaper's article would include. When
this information was not provided, Harmatz hung up, then called
back and said he would no longer provide track results to the
doesn't exist to you guys anymore," Harmatz said.