Triton Vikings Cheerleading '07

Bryan Eaton, Staff Photographer

Triton cheerleading coach will not have contract renewed

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Friday, November, 30 By Dan Guttenplan
Sports editor

The Triton Regional athletic department recently came under criticism for the controversial parting of ways with hockey coach Drew Wile, who did not have his contract renewed after one year on the job.

It doesn't figure to get any easier for the Triton administration after the most recent coaching change.

Triton cheerleading coach Kristen Almquist was informed by athletic director David Dempsey and Principal Kevin McLaughlin last Tuesday that she will not have her contract renewed for the winter sports season. Almquist held the position for five years and led the Vikings to the EMass. Division 3 state competition the last three seasons. Almquist said she was "shocked" by the release, which stemmed from what Dempsey deemed to be "leadership concerns."

"From what he told me in our meeting, it was related to one thing," Almquist said. "He said my leadership qualities had been called into question. Based on those concerns, I wasn't rehired."

Dempsey refused to comment yesterday on the reasons for Almquist's release.

"I cannot discuss personnel situations," Dempsey said. "But I am going to advertise the position."

Almquist believes the questions regarding her leadership ability stemmed from an incident at the end-of-season banquet the week before Thanksgiving. Members of her team presented a variety of awards intended to be humorous. One was deemed inappropriate by Dempsey and McLaughlin, neither of whom were present at the time.

"They heard things, and they consulted with me about what they heard," Almquist said. "There were unfounded allegations. I don't think it was fully investigated. They made the best decision they could. But I'm saddened and hurt because I was really tight in the Triton community."

After meeting with Dempsey and McLaughlin, Almquist called several parents of cheerleaders to deliver the news, including Mary Capolupo, whose daughter Erica is a captain.

"They were scheduled to have practice at school the next day," Capolupo said. "(Kristen) knew the girls would be upset by this. We're a very supportive group. We have pot lucks and pool parties every season. If anybody has first-hand knowledge of the coach and the team, it would be us | not this athletic director, who hasn't made it to a practice."

Capolupo and several other parents attended the next day's practice to show their support. They have since started a campaign to reinstate Almquist for the winter season. The steps they have taken include:

The measures have proved unsuccessful. Dempsey said yesterday the decision was final.

Capolupo said the campaign to reinstate Almquist stemmed from the Triton administration's initial resistance to meeting with parents. Instead, McLaughlin sent a letter to all parents of cheerleader | dated Nov. 21 | explaining the personnel move.

A portion of the letter reads, "The decision has been made, and we will not discuss details of a personnel issue, but if you feel you want to be heard in terms of how this pertains to your daughter, Mr. Dempsey and/or I will certainly talk with you or meet with you individually."

Capolupo found the letter insulting.

"I think what this group of parents is concerned about is the suddenness of the decision," Capolupo said. "We want to know what kind of investigation went into the alleged complaint. Their unwillingness to speak with us made me inquire why. Parents have a right to know because if something inappropriate occurred, their daughter was exposed to it as well."

Peter Lariviere met with McLaughlin and Dempsey on Tuesday but did not leave content with the explanation he received. "I asked (Dempsey), 'What is your objective for the program?'" Lariviere said. "He said he wanted to see a coach bring it to the point of excellence, he wanted good parental involvement, and he wanted good student-body involvement. I said, 'You've described everything that's been happening for five seasons.'"

Almquist teaches at Chelsea High and serves as an instructor at All That Cheer and Tumble gymnasium in Amesbury. She said she turned down offers this fall to coach cheerleading programs at two other high schools. She plans to return to the high school coaching ranks next fall.

"I would've stayed at Triton as long as the program needed me," Almquist said. "I had no plans of leaving. But however sad and hurt I am, at the end of the day, the support has been immeasurable. I've know I've done good for Triton because of that. The last thing in the world I want is for this to hinder the program. Our girls don't deserve that."

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