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Stolle, Dranginis: Familiar faces, different endings

POSTED August 21, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

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                               Stolle, Dranginis: Familiar faces, different endings

              Strange? Volatile? Chaotic? Unfortunate?

            This past week in the Berkshire League was a little bit of all of that and more. You could throw mysterious, irritating and disappointing in there depending on your take of how events unfolded.

            Two familiar names and faces, Wamogo Athletic Director Mary Stolle and Litchfield High swim coach Bill Dranginis  saw their duties ended. In Stolle’s case by choice in Dranginis’ situation by vote.

            Neither departure necessarily benefits the BL nor the respective schools although in Dranginis’ case the transpirings are a bit murkier to assess.

            But, let’s start with Stolle. Tuesday night she ended her decade-long tenure as Wamogo’s A.D., resigning in what came as a surprise to all, a shock to many.  I spoke with Stolle Thursday morning and she did not wish to publicize the reason for her decision.

            However, she was upbeat, and it was clear that this was her decision and not a move by the school. Speculation usually runs rampant when resignations are accompanied by `no comment’ and in this case come just two weeks before school begins and roughly one week before fall practices.

            So, something happened here. It will come out eventually although you probably will never see it in the papers or on any web site. Talk spreads quickly, particularly in small towns. The story will eventually be known, probably through the best method of communication known to man – word of mouth.

            While the decision was Stolle’s, Wamogo needs to react and the reaction to needs be to reach out to Stolle first before searching for a new Athletic Director. I asked Stolle if there was any possibility she would reconsider and she didn’t think so but didn’t turn down the idea definitively.

            Principal William Egan needs to call Stolle in and see if there is common ground for Stolle’s return. Why? Simple, she is darn good at what she does and good for the BL. There is no more difficult job in the school than Athletic Director. Apologies to the other administrators but I have even had school principals tell me that.

            There is no off-season, the duties don’t stop. And do we really want to get in to what it is like dealing with parents in so many cases these days?

            As one Athletic Director told me upon hearing that Stolle had resigned, “She is Wamogo athletics, she works so hard and does so much for that program.” Stolle would probably blush at the comment because she recognizes the contributions of so many of the coaches like baseball and basketball coach Gregg Hunt, girls coach Kevin Crowley, all the athletes that do their thing and even the maintenance staff which she lauded for their work.

            The point is made, however. Stolle has the respect of her colleagues and everybody else.  If there is no problem on Wamogo’s part then they owe it their school to say, ‘Mary let’s talk, we don’t want to lose you.”

            Stolle has always been honest, hardworking, gracious and concerned. Wamogo needs to think about that and turn back to her before anyone else. There is no indication Stolle could be convinced to retract her resignation. We don’t know even know why she left.

            I don’t expect any miracles here. What I would hope is that the effort will be made. If not, Wamogo never realized what it had and that should be a major concern to all involved.  You don’t take people like Mary Stolle for granted.

            For a family that has given so much to Wamogo, it is kind of hard to believe that Kerri Stolle’s senior year will mark the end of the Stolle run at Wamogo.

            For 20 years swimming and the persona of Bill Dranganis were one at Litchfield High.  There was no denyng the success enjoyed by the program under his tutelage with a wealth of swimmers going on to perform in college and the team constantly in the upper echelon of the BL.

            But beyond the wins and losses there were problems with the persona. There was a suspension for falsifying the times of one of his swimmers in 2009-2010 so the swimmer could qualify for the state championship meet.

            There were also multiple charges of failing to follow policies that included holding on to money that belonged to the school system and allowing a diver to drive to a meet. According to attorney Richard Milles who represented Superintendent Deborah S. Wheeler and the high school’s administration Dranginis violated seven of the 12 conditions Dranginis agreed to for the 2010-11 season.

            Dranginis’ lawyer, Anne Dranginis, said there were no facts to support any of the allegations. She pointed to the support he had at the appeals meeting to determine his fate.

            He said, she said. What to make of it all? It appears that Litchfield High had run its course with Dranginis and it was time to make a change.  Enough was enough.

            Unlike reaction to Stolle’s resignation, there seems to be an undercurrent of `good coach, but not surprised’ around. He has a wealth of supporters as evidenced by the meeting to discuss his appeal. His dedication has been unquestioned.

            Yet, there seems to have been a `My Way’ style that didn’t always set well with officials. End result, a long-time face around the BL is gone.

            One aspect of the Dranginis appeal that should not be overlooked is that at least he got a chance to fight for his job in the public arena. Too often under the current ridiculous set up which says coaches are only hired for one year and can be dismissed at any time, school’s just used their power to get rid or coaches, rightly or wrongly, with coaches having no recourse.

            Now, in a law passed several years ago. If you have been in position for three years, coaches can demand an appeal hearing as Dranginis did. It might not change minds, it didn’t in Dranginis’ case, but it forces schools to explain themselves.

            Thank former Lewis Mills softball coach, Eileen Crompton,  for providing the impetus for the state legislature to pass the law after being unceremoniously dumped with few options by the Spartans after almost a quarter of century at the position.  

            All in all, a different week in the B.L.


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