Former coach Jonas met district officials on Thursday
Monday’s school board meeting saw over 30 members of the community attend in support of Former West Fargo High assistant football and basketball coach Jim Jonas. Even more supporters looked in from the lobby of the Leidal Education Center. Despite their respectful nature, a West Fargo police officer was also in attendance in the event the meeting got out of hand.
The supporters, many of whom were wearing “Justice for Jonas” T-shirts, sat and listened to public comments from two supporters — 2000 West Fargo graduate Brent Tehven and 2002 graduate Brandon Laufenberg — then left the meeting quietly.
“What I remember most was not his coaching or teaching, but how he cared about us, both as athletes and students,” Tehven said. “As we all know, life is hard and it is not always fair. Jim made sure we knew that, and he did it in a way that we all respected him for it.”
Board president Kay Kiefer told the crowd that the board would not take action on the personnel matter.
“(The administrators) are responsible professionals who have worked hard to bring the current situation to the best possible resolution,” Kiefer said. “While we do understand that there has been great interest generated by this specific incident, there will not be discussion among the board… related to personnel issues during any board meeting, including this one.”
Jonas met with a group of coaches, teachers and administrators on Thursday to discuss his situation following his resignation from both coaching positions for still-unnamed reasons.
“This group, myself included, is making a commitment to dedicate their efforts to work collaboratively toward a process of continuous improvement in the West Fargo School District that will ensure this success,” Jonas said in his official statement released on Friday. “Open and honest communication will be the cornerstone of this effort. The welfare of student athletes will be the utmost consideration.”
Jonas was asked to resign in an Nov. 8 letter. Though initially given until Nov. 12 to submit his resignation, he was given an extension for an unspecified amount of time.
Jonas’ personal file contains at least 25 incidents — both as a teacher and coach — throughout his 23-year career that led to him losing his coaching jobs.
“Jim has made mistakes, and he has acknowledged them,” Tehven said. “This is not just about Jim, as there are other that have made mistakes as well. We need more transparency and communication within the district in order to prevent issues like this from reaching this point.
As it currently stands, Jonas remains a teacher and track and field coach for West Fargo High School.
“Although I will not be coaching basketball and football in the coming seasons, I hope that I can someday return to the sidelines and the bench again.”
Community support for Jonas continues to grow. The “Justice for Jonas” Facebook group currently has 4,069 members, and a petition asking for his reinstatement — which was presented to the school board on Monday night — has 1,244 signatures.
““I don’t know which road I would have took if it wasn’t for him,” Laufenberg said. “He kept me on the right path in life… He was always there for me, and I knew I could go to him.”
On Wednesday, roughly 125 students sat in the high school commons during their third- and fourth-period classes chanting “We want Jonas!” District officials said that students were “calm and respectful” during the sit-in, and would not be punished beyond being ruled absent for their classes.