Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Marcus Huff
Staff Writer 

Ten Sleep football coach and teacher resigns

Town residents and students make impassioned plea to retain educator and mentor Andy Ray


April 13, 2016

TEN SLEEP – Ten Sleep sophomore football player Corey Rice stood before the Washakie County School District No. 2 Board of Directors Monday night, his father Dan Rice observing from his seat as chairman, as the student gave a testimonial on behalf of coach Andy Ray, who reluctantly tendered his resignation on Friday, April 8, after being advised his contract would not be renewed for undisclosed reasons.

“We only had eight players come out for football this year,” stated Corey Rice, to the board and those in attendance to show support for Ray, “and we knew when we went up against teams with 32 players on their team that we were going to get beat, every time. But, there’s a reason we [Rice, JD Nelson and Luke Fenton] were named All-Conference and one of us was named All-State [Quentin Fettig], and that reason is Coach Ray. He brought that out in us.”

According to Ray, he was approached by Ten Sleep Principal Russell Budmayr on Wednesday, April 6, and notified that his contract with the district would not be renewed, and that the district would instead accept his resignation. Ray lobbied for a letter of recommendation upon resignation, but was given no assurances. On Friday, Ray delivered his letter of resignation.

Standing outside the Board of Directors conference room, Ray expressed his dismay. “They never really told me why, but without a letter of recommendation, my career as an educator is dead.”

For nearly an hour on Monday evening, the Board of Directors heard from students, former students, athletes, coaches, and parents, all in support of Ray, and requesting that the board reconsider his resignation. The board, despite requests from the audience and press, provided no explanation for the request for resignation, citing privacy issues.

The board also denied requests to verify if Ray’s employments status had been discussed in previous, sessions of the district’s meetings in public or during executive (closed) session.

Ten Sleep Town Councilman Ernie Beckley requested the board not accept Ray’s resignation, based upon his personal knowledge of the educator’s passion for teaching, and the many positive benefits he had witnessed. Councilman Mike Dante (also an assistant football coach) also testified to Ray’s dedication, and remarked that his contribution to the community as a whole couldn’t be measured. Ten Sleep basketball coach and former assistant football coach Ben Schwarz stated that Ray had taken the time to become part of the community, spending time after school on the facility, engaging an interest in the student’s academic progress, and even helping local ranching families with branding and other chores. “It would be a big mistake to accept his resignation,” warned Schwarz.

Jake Zent, who was replaced as head football coach by Ray in 2013, reflected on how hard it was for Ray to acclimate to such a small community and his ability to adapt, but expressed his gratefulness for Ray’s presence, and his admiration for him as a teacher and coach. Girls volleyball coach and math teacher Sarah Novak stated that it was the administration’s job to recognize good qualities, and warned that the district would lose a “tremendous asset” if Ray resigned, then encouraging student athletes in attendance to speak up.

In addition to Rice, Ten Sleep senior football players JD Nelson and Quentin Fettig rose to their feet and addressed the board. Reinforcing Rice’s statement, Fettig and Nelson recalled never leaving the field, playing six-man football against teams with and seemingly endless wave of fresh replacements for each play, both offensive and defensive. They recalled the long workouts and Ray’s reputation as an “old-school” football coach and an equally talented social studies teacher.

“Coach Ray is a great teacher and roll model,” stated Nelson, “I look up to him as much as my own dad.”

Fettig, reminiscing on working his way to become and All-State player, remarked that Ray “is the father figure in my life. Without him, I wouldn’t have got where I am today.”

Coach Ray, who also teaches social studies, finally addressed the board and those in attendance, noting that he wanted the record to show that although he was given the opportunity to resign, it was not his desire, and that he would love to stay. Ray remarked that if they accepted his resignation, he would appreciate a letter of recommendation.

Upon hearing the final supporter, the board of directors went into executive session, citing personnel issues.

During the 45-minute closed door session, Ray and his football players, students, and fellow coaches sat in the hallway and laughed about the previous season, his time as a “greenhorn” working with local cattle families, and seeming private jokes that only they understood, after four years as a tight-knit group of Ten Sleep Pioneers.

At the close of the executive session, Principal Budmayr opened the conference room and invited all in attendance to return. After a brief vote to extend and renew staff contracts for 2016-2017, board member Terril Mills made a motion to “reluctantly” accept Ray’s resignation as coach and teacher. Before the final vote was cast in favor, those in attendance rose to their feet and left without a word, led by members of the football team.

Standing in the doorway, Ray thanked the board for their support, before walking alone down Ten Sleep School’s main hallway to leave the building, past the darkened trophy display cases and testaments to over 100 years of Pioneer athletics.


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