POCATELLO — Pocatello High School varsity girls basketball team parents met with School District 25 officials Thursday morning to share their concerns regarding the recent firing of Laraine Cook, the team’s coach.
The meeting caused district officials to review Cook’s dismissal again, but in the end their decision to remove her stood.
“Parents had asked to be able to talk to district administration (and) Superintendent (Mary) Vagner about their coach,” said district spokeswoman Shelley Allen. “They wanted her to hear their concerns.”
Neither Cook nor Vagner was available for comment when contacted by the Journal on Thursday.
According to sources and media reports, Cook was dismissed Tuesday because of a photo on her Facebook page that showed her boyfriend, Pocatello High varsity football coach Tom Harrison, touching her chest. The photo has since been removed from the Internet.
Parents met with Vagner, District 25 Director of Secondary Education Bob Devine and District 25 Director of Human Resources Douglas Howell Thursday at 11 a.m. Allen said that, legally, Vagner could not reveal the circumstances surrounding Cook’s dismissal, but that she would be willing to hear from the parents of the student-athletes.
“(Vagner) expressed her understanding of their concerns and the impact it could have on the girls,” Allen said. “They wanted (Vagner) to consider reinstating the coach, with some specific guidelines in place.”
The concern of the parents involved the timing of the firing because the 2013-14 high school basketball season begins in less than a month, as well as what Allen described as “the integrity of the program,” meaning the positive impact Cook had on the girls.
The School District 25 administration made the decision to fire Cook Tuesday evening, but Vagner agreed, after meeting with the parents, to initiate another review with Devine, Howell, Pocatello High Principal Don Cotant and Pocatello High Athletic Director Robert Parker involved.
Thursday afternoon, the district’s administration announced that it would not alter its stance on the matter — Cook would not be returning.
“They decided to not make a change to their position,” Allen said.
Cotant would not comment on his stance or role in Cook’s dismissal, nor the second review.
“I can’t say anything,” he said. “Any personnel issue needs to be taken up with Shelley Allen with the school district.”
Parker told a Journal reporter that he could not comment on personnel matters.
Harrison is still the head football coach at Pocatello High. Harrison confirmed to the Journal that he was reprimanded by the school district as part of the matter involving Cook, but that he could not comment on the situation further.
“I would like to help you, but I can’t at this time,” Harrison said. “It’s a sad deal.”
With the season approaching, Allen said School District 25 is considering all its options to find a replacement for Cook.
“(We) have posted the opening,” she said. “(We’re) looking for the best fit and someone who will be best for the girls. Whether that is someone from inside or outside the program, we’ll see.”