ERIE- On February 27th, Kelly Shipley and Ann Apple resigned from their positions as Head Coach and Assistant Coach of Erie High School’s Swim and Dive team. The resignation comes after the team took 8th place overall at the CHSAA 3A Swimming and Diving Championships, with many individual placements. Shipley, who also was a science teacher at Erie High School, resigned from her teaching position as well.
In an email to swimming and diving participants and parents, Shipley cited “the lack of support at the district and building level for girls swimming led us to this decision.”
While EHS’s administrators would not comment on personnel matters, they did provide a financial overview of the Girl’s Swimming and Diving program in comparison across other programs in St. Vrain Valley Schools and other sports at Erie High School.
In the overview, Athletic Director Justin Carpenter noted that the allocation of stipends for coaching staff happens primarily on the district level. The district sets a certain percentage for stipends for each sport, with 100% being one full stipend for a program, and 200% meaning two full stipends.
SVVSD mandates that any swimming and diving program receives a 200% base stipend. EHS Girls Swimming and Diving received a 250% stipend, with the additional 50% stipend going towards an assistant dive coach. SVVSD provides a 150% stipend allocation for a district-wide diving coach. This means that all diving programs in SVVSD (Longmont, Silver Creek, Skyline, Niwot, and Erie) received coaching from one dedicated diving coach. However, with the extra stipend, Erie divers received more individualized coaching than any other dive team in SVVSD.
In addition to the base 200% stipend and the extra 50% stipend allocated by SVVSD, both EHS and EHS Athletics provided additional stipends. The Athletic Director of EHS provided an additional stipend of $1,257.90. That stipend was allocated this past summer, given the demand for the program in its first season. The principal of EHS also provided a second additional stipend at the beginning of the season, in the amount of $1,437.60.
Compared to other teams in the district, EHS had more pool time than any other program in SVVSD. Every week, EHS swimmers received 55 hours of lane time (1 lane x 1 hour = 1 hour of lane time). Meanwhile, every other team across the district received between 33.5 and 35 hours of lane time each week. The administration also added that due to maintenance at one of the pools that the other four schools share, during the first month of practice, (from 11/18-11/15) those schools got less than 3 hours of practice time a week. Erie Girls Swimming and Diving was unaffected by that maintenance. To compare pool time, we also must account for the number of participants across the programs. Erie had 105 participants on their team, while the next biggest program, Silver Creek, had 71 participants. Dividing the amount of lane time at their peaks by the number of participants, Erie still had more lane time per swimmer than Silver Creek.
The information provided by EHS provides three key insights for the support of the team. The first being that from coaching stipends, EHS swim and dive received more than any other swim and dive program in SVVSD through an extra 50% for a diving coach, and two extra stipends given from the athletic director and principal. The second is that because of the additional coach stipend, the EHS dive team received more individualized coaching than any other team in SVVSD. Finally, the team was provided more pool time than any other team in SVVSD.
At face value, it seems clear that EHS swim and dive was very supported financially by the district, and even more so supported by EHS administration when the support the district provided wasn’t adequate. However, the word support is not limited to financial aspects. While Shipley declined to comment on the matter at this time, her resignation letter explains her view of the situation.
In the letter to EHS Principal Matt Buchler, in which she resigned from coaching and teaching, Shipley explained: “When you repeatedly refuse to support the girls’ swim team in an equitable way to the boys’ sports teams, despite our size and logistical needs, this is sexism.”
Shipley claimed in the letter that when she voiced those concerns, Buchler called her “high maintenance.”
Further in the letter, Shipley described Buchler to “have created a toxic culture of fear, where blind loyalty is rewarded and facts don’t matter,” and continues with “Anyone who dares to speak out against [Buchler] had better get used to being a pariah, and had better start looking for a new job.”
Buchler declined to comment on these accusations.
After Shipley’s resignation, parent Paul Olson sent an email to the swimmers, divers, and their parents that outlined three main points: Don’t give up, you are the team, and we move forward together.
In the first point, Olson discussed that Shipley and Apple did not give up on the team. “While giving you incredible love and support, they received the opposite from the school administration. Starting last year, Coach Shipley began fighting an exhausting battle, including, but not limited to, a lack of funding, a lack of coaches, and an unwillingness to cover fees equitably.” Olson continued “In order to shed light on an issue of inequities across multiple sports at Erie High School, she left teaching and coaching to help make a better future for all of you.”
Olson made sure to note in the second point that the team is not made up of the coaches, but rather the swimmers and divers. But most importantly, Olson outlined in the third point outlined that the team would meet together on the evening of Monday, March 2nd, and attend the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 11th, to address their concerns.
At the meeting on March 2nd, athletes and parents brought up questions on if the school was in Title IX compliance, using East Bay as the official school vendor, the administration culture towards the team and the coaches, and what EHS Swim and Dive will look like next year in light of Frederick High School adding their own team.
As for Title IX compliance, Bart Lillie, a parent of a swimmer, outlined in an email sent out to swimmers, divers, and parents that they will be contacting SVVSD’s Title IX compliance officer to raise concerns.
When it comes to using East Bay as an official vendor, Lillie mentioned that Shipley questioned the legality of forcing coaches to use East Bay as their vendor. Nonetheless, EHS still used East Bay as the vendor for the season.
As for moving forward into next season, parents and athletes raised concerns with Frederick High School introducing their own team. Carpenter explained that there is a joint-use agreement in place between the Carbon Valley Parks & Recreation District and SVVSD. What this means is that with the introduction of Frederick High School’s own team, the lanes allocated for SVVSD schools will remain the same unless SVVSD renegotiates the contract terms. In turn, Erie Swim would have less available lane space in the upcoming season.
Lillie mentioned in his email that Shipley had met with the Executive Athletic Director for SVVSD, Chase McBride, and alleged that McBride said “[Erie] will split the pool with Frederick.”
Further, when Shipley met with the dean for Carbon Valley Recreation Center, the dean implied that Frederick High School would have priority as it is their pool (Carbon Valley Recreation Center is located in Frederick).
For now, student-athletes, parents, and community members plan to bring up their concerns with the district Title IX compliance officer, the area superintendent, and at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 11th.