CRYSTAL LAKE – The public participation part of District 155’s school board meetings ask those speaking to limit their comments to 3 minutes, but Greg Bradshaw had a lot to say.
The Crystal Lake pastor poured out heartfelt sentiments for Prairie Ridge boys basketball coach Corky Card, who recently was informed he would not be retained as coach.
About 60 people attended the meeting to support Card, most sharing the same feelings for the 15th-year Wolves coach that Bradshaw expressed.
Card was in Chicago at Rush University Medical Center on Tuesday, recovering from a partial replacement of his right knee earlier in the day. He was unavailable for comment.
Card’s name did not appear on the agenda, and the board did not vote on his dismissal as coach, but sources said he was one of 15 teachers who were victims of the district’s reduction in force. As Bradshaw noted before reading his letter, there were current and former assistants along with current and former players from the Prairie Ridge program in attendance.
Even current Crystal Lake Central coach Rich Czeslawski and former Cary-Grove coach Ralph Schuetzle were there in support of Card, who teaches physical education at Prairie Ridge.
Greg and Kris Bradshaw had sons Bryan, J.T., Michael and Christopher go through Prairie Ridge’s program.
“A decision to retain or fire a district employee should include these two important factors,” Bradshaw said. “A comprehensive review of the factual information regarding the employee’s performance, and No. 2, a review of what is in the best interest of the families and students they collectively serve. In both regards, principal (Steve) Koch and athletic director (Mark) Gilbert have failed to assess the situation with coach Card accurately.”
Card is highly regarded around the area for his coaching ability. His teams are 251-182 over his 15 seasons, with five regional titles. The Wolves won the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division in 2015 and 2016 and finished second in the FVC to Jacobs this season.
But Bradshaw urged the board to look at more than Card’s record. Bradshaw pointed out that Card visited hospitals, bought shoes for players who could not afford them, gave them rides when necessary and frequently opened the gym at 6:30 a.m. so they could get extra shooting.
“What has taken place in the firing of Coach Card has caused me to seriously doubt the effectiveness of [Prairie Ridge’s] leaders, as well as the integrity of the decision-making process,” Bradshaw said. “I am not sure how the administrators could have been this out of touch with reality. I would like to respectfully suggest that you and your team do a full review of the process about the decision to fire coach Card. Apparently Coach Card was fired because, I quote, ‘Other than X’s and O’s, you have lost the passion.’ The facts indicate otherwise.”
Bradshaw received an ovation after his speech, at which point District 155 Superintendent Johnnie Thomas offered this: “I’d like to ask the board to allow the administration to have a little bit more time to further investigate the cause of the action being brought forth to us. And I’d like to suggest if there was further action, I’d like to have a special board meeting to have that done ahead of the appropriate time line.”
Board President Ted Wagner pointed out that there was no termination on the agenda for Tuesday night on which to vote, then thanked Bradshaw for his comments.
Junior guard Connor Kazin was one of several players from this year’s team at the meeting. Some others missed because they had a baseball game.
“We all want him back,” Kazin said.
Former player Shane Cullian, now a high school teacher and middle school basketball coach, also came to support Card.
“Playing for Prairie Ridge, you know you’re not competing for state titles or going to supersectionals every year,” Cullian said. “What you are doing is competing at the highest level and becoming a better man in the process. This is a reflection on the impact [Card] has. It’s not just basketball, but the impact he had on young men’s lives. He is a molder of minds and hearts. He is the one who will put you on the right path in case you are unsure where to go. I would not have played college basketball and would not have the opportunity to teach and coach if it were not for coach Card. He is that significant in my life.”