A member of the DCHS girls soccer team addressed the Board of Education Thursday night asking that long time unpaid assistant coach Rhonda Merriman be kept as a paid assistant.
Brooke Roller, a DCHS senior and member of the soccer team, delivered a brief prepared statement in support of Merriman. "From our understanding it has been approved for us to have a paid assistant coach. Rhonda Merriman has been our unpaid assistant coach for about the last six years. Now that we have been approved to have an assistant coach, we have chosen Ms. Rhonda. We have been informed that it cannot be allowed for her to take that position. It has been said that she is not fit to work with kids. She is a guidance counselor at DCHS and also a youth pastor at her church and has coached soccer for many years. I have had a rough few months and without her help I could have made some really bad decisions. She isn't just a coach to many of us on the team. We love having her on the field with us. We are all very close to her. We also understand that perhaps it is the configuring of how to pay her because she is paid differently than most teachers. We have personally hired a lawyer to do that math for the board. In addition to that our current head coach, Dylan Kleparek has researched and discovered that multiple other high schools in the state of Tennessee have assistant coaches who are not teachers at the school just like Ms. Rhonda. Also for us girls we have things that we can't handle with Coach K. because he is a male and we are females so it makes it a lot easier for us having Ms. Rhonda around. I just feel our team would benefit very much by having her because she is a wonderful person," said Roller.
The new school budget includes funding for additional coaching supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team) totaling $5,570.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, who has the sole authority to hire personnel in the school system, has apparently not yet named an assistant coach but refutes any notion that Merriman is unfit to be around kids. "Ms. Rhonda is an excellent person. She is outstanding. If she were not fit, she wouldn't be at the high school. She is an excellent person. I just want to make that point. But I have not named her as an assistant coach," said Willoughby.
Merriman is a member of the support staff at DeKalb County High School.