Coach shocked by his dismissal

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 8, 2002

The non-renewal of the contract for the head football coach andathletic director of Brookhaven High School was a surprise andshock to the coach, friends and family. The news of the decisionThursday sent ripples throughout the district. School officialshave declined to discuss the decision.

Andrew Hickman said he was shocked and dismayed upon learningthat his contract had not been renewed. That decision was madeWednesday night at a special board meeting of the BrookhavenSeparate School District. In a 3 to 2 decision, board members votednot to renew Hickman’s contract for the upcoming school year.

Citing school policy, Brookhaven School District schoolsuperintendent Dr. Sam Bounds on Friday declined comment about thedetails of the decision. “It is unfortunate that I cannot discussthe issue,” Dr. Bounds said. “It is a personnel matter between theboard and a school employee.” Bounds said a meeting was held inFebruary with Hickman to discuss issues relating to the ultimatedecision by the school board.

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An audit of the athletic department was requested by Dr. Boundsand conducted by the State Department of Audit. A polygraph testwas also administered.

In an interview Thursday, Hickman said several charges broughtagainst him were either false or inflated. “I made a mistake but Iwasn’t dishonest.”

The first year coach said, an athletic fund was established lastfall to meet emergency needs in the athletic department. Theprivate bank account Hickman said was from profits from the peeweefootball league concession stand and the snack machines.

When Bounds became aware of the private bank account, Hickmansaid Bounds ordered Hickman to submit his athletic department to anaudit by the state auditor’s office. Hickman said he was cleared bythe audit as well as the polygraph test.

Also at issue were ticket sales during the BrookhavenInvitational Basketball Tournament in January. The coach said hepaid athletic department members out of the gate receipts, which hesaid was a violation of school policy. Coaches were paid $20 eachper night for taking up tickets at the gate or providing crowdsecurity. “It was quicker and easier than having to wait a coupledays to get a check cut,” Hickman said.

Hickman said a Super Bowl pool he put together to raise athleticdepartment funds also got him in trouble. He said he sold 1,000squares at $1 apiece with $800 going to the pot and $200 to theathletic department account. Gambling on school grounds is aviolation of school board policy.

“I wanted to raise money for the athletic department budget andhelp get us through the year,” said Hickman.

An effort to satisfy kids who were unhappy with cafeteria foodalso was an issue according the Hickman. “The kids said theyweren’t going to eat cafeteria food so I let them buy stuff fromthe machines.” School policy based on Federal Education Departmentmandates does not allow snack food to be sold during certain schoolhours.

Hickman said he had tried to communicate with Bounds and arrangea meeting to discuss the financially-stressed athletic budget. “Itried three months to meet with him about the budget.”

According to Hickman, he had several ideas to help raise fundsfor the athletic department. One idea was a golf tournament. He hadmade arrangements for the tournament before consulting with Boundsfor final approval.

Hickman said he was unable to communicate with Bounds. “There isa big difference how Dr. Bounds deals with people and how I dealwith people.”

Looking to the near future, Hickman said he has requested aplace on the school board agenda for the April 23 meeting. “I don’tfeel comfortable with him (Bounds) telling my side of thestory.”

“Everything I did was for the kids,” said Hickman. “I’m tryingto improve the athletic program.”

Hickman, 39, was in his first year at BHS. He moved toBrookhaven from George County in Lucedale. The Panther footballteam posted a 5-5 record in 2001.