Hazelwood resigns after board vote on football coach

Watson Chapel School District Superintendent Danny Hazelwood announced his resignation at a meeting of the district’s board of directors Monday night, board secretary Ronnie Reynolds confirmed Tuesday.

Reynolds said Hazelwood told the board he was resigning after the board voted 4-2 against Hazelwood’s recommendation to hire Des Arc football coach Dustin Prescott to replace Watson Chapel head coach George Shelton, who is retiring.

“He said if the board didn’t trust him and the (selection) committee to make the right decision on the football coach, then he wasn’t needed,” Reynolds said.

“It was a sad thing, the way it happened,” said board member Danny Holcomb. “Things can kind of snowball sometimes and I think that’s what happened. … I think he (Hazelwood) felt slighted a little bit.”

It wasn’t clear when Hazelwood intended for his resignation to take effect. He did not return messages left Tuesday at his office and on his personal cell phone, although at one point a person who answered the phone in the district’s administration building said Hazelwood was in his office with a visitor.

Reynolds said he would not be surprised if Hazelwood rescinds his resignation.

“We’ll give him a little time to think about it,” Reynolds said. “I’m going to take it one day at a time and see what happens.”

“I think the school board as a whole wants to give him a few days to see if he wants to rescind his resignation,” Holcomb said. “I think we certainly would accpet that.”

The vote against hiring Prescott fell along racial lines, according to Reynolds. Board president Donnie Hartsfield and board member Robin Barker, who are white, voted in support of Hazelwood’s recommendation to hire Prescott. Reynolds and fellow board members Shade Culclager, Sandra Boone and J.J. Jones, who are black, all voted against the hiring. Holcomb, who is white, did not participate in the vote.

Reynolds said some of the board members were disappointed by a story published in The Commercial over the weekend that reported Hazelwood’s plans to recommend that Prescott be hired.

“I did not feel (the recommendation) was presented to the board as it should have been,” Reynolds said. “That article made it seem like it was a done deal. … We as the board are the decision-makers. All he (Hazelwood) does is make recommendations.”

“I think more than anything else, some of the board members felt like they should been given some advance notice about what was happening,” Holcomb said. “It was more of a miscommunication thing than anything else, I think.”

Holcomb said he had no objection to the recommendation that Prescott be hired.

“I saw no reason to not follow the committee’s recommendation,” he said. “When I looked at the qualifications, he was definitely qualified for the job.”

Reynolds indicated that race was a factor in the vote.

“We may need to look at some minority recruitment,” he said. “That’s a factor. When you look at 15 white coaches and two black coaches, that’s a factor, whether they admit it or not.”

Shelton, the retiring coach, is black. Prescott is white.

Holcomb said he didn’t believe race was a factor in the board’s vote, pointing out that one black member was outspoken in support of another white candidate for the coaching position.

Both Culclager and Boone said they did not want to comment until Hazelwood had done so. Messages left for Barker and Hartsfield had not been returned by 8 p.m. Tuesday.