A longtime coach in the Lee’s Summit School District will have his future decided this week — though the outcome of that meeting won’t be known right away.
A public hearing will be held at 5 p.m., Wednesday, June 23, at the Tony L. Stansberry Leadership Center regarding the job status of teacher/coach Joe Oswald — commonly referred to as ‘Coach O’ for his role as an assistant football coach at Lee’s Summit West.
A complaint was filed against the teacher at Pleasant Lea Middle School and the investigation led to a decision to fire him.
Oswald, who has been working in the district since the 1994-1995 school year and is a tenured teacher, requested a public hearing since the decision involved a termination. The public meeting will be live-streamed on the district’s YouTube page but will not be recorded, according to the school district.
Despite the meeting held on Wednesday, a decision on the outcome will not be made that night. The board of education will have up to 10 days to make a decision in a closed session meeting whether to retain Oswald or agree with the administration decision to terminate him.
The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Board of Education will meet for a special hearing at 5…
Oswald’s termination revolved around the use of a racial slur at the middle school during this past school year, though according to media reports, he was simply repeating what a female student had said to administration for disciplinary reasons.
This isn’t the first occurrence in the wider metropolitan area of a teacher/coach getting in trouble for words. In May, Olathe North baseball coach Pete Flood was suspended, and then fired, within days of repeating a racial slur he said he heard in a rap song. Down the road, Harrisonville held an 11-hour meeting last week for a teacher accused of making inappropriate comments and racial slurs. The outcome of that decision hasn’t been made public yet.
There has been a backlash among some in the Lee’s Summit district who believe Oswald should keep his job. As of June 20, the website ipetitions.com had more than 860 people sign up in support of Oswald keeping his position, while more than 240 posted comments in favor of Coach O.
Among those posting comments were former co-workers at Pleasant Lea — many who worked with him for a decade or longer. His character, empathy, integrity and professionalism were common themes.
Lori Werth, a retired secretary for the district, posted “I worked with Coach Oswald for 21 years and never saw anything, but genuine care and compassion for his students, athletes and coworkers. A true teacher of character you would want your child to experience in their educational years.”
Current Denver Nuggets guard Shaquille Harrison also made a comment on the status of Oswald. Harrison and his brother Monte were both stars at Lee’s Summit West before making a mark at the pro level. Shaquille has played for four NBA teams, while Monte is an outfielder for the Miami Marlins.
“(Oswald) Has impacted so many kids' lives including mine,” Shaquille Harrison posted. “(I) Learned that having good character as a man, as an athlete, and as a human being was taught through (sic) him and the coaching staff at my HS. Not only was it taught by words, but it was shown by him through (sic) actions.”
Oswald played football at Missouri and Southwest Missouri State — now Missouri State — where he earned his degree. He started his teaching and coaching career in the 1992-1993 school year at Lockwood, a small rural school in southwest Missouri. He is currently the track and field coach at Pleasant Lea and officiates high school basketball games in the winter.
In addition, he helps out the local NFL Flag Football league, a job he has held for the past nine years.
“I coached football with Coach Joe Oswald for over 10 years at Lee's Summit West High School,” current LSW assistant coach Limbo Parks posted. “Coach Oswald is like a brother to me, like a second father to the players he coached. In all the years that we coached together I have NEVER heard Coach Oswald do or say anything racial, hurtful, or demeaning towards any player, coach, or parent. He is a model coach and a model person. Joe Oswald is the type of man that would give you his last cent without a second thought. I lived in Arkansas for over 12 years; I know when I'm working or dealing with racist people. Coach Oswald is one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is the type of man you call when you need something and he'll come as soon as possible.”