ST. PETERSBURG —The phone calls started at 7:50 a.m. Feb. 22. The voice on the other end wanted to know how to express support for Coach Paul Morrison of the Thomas ‘Jet’ Jackson Recreational Center.
The caller uttered a string of accolades regarding Coach Morrison and stated he and others wanted to appear before city council regarding the alleged firing of Coach Morrison for leaving a child on a bus following a city sponsored event.
It took some time for me to calm the caller and inquire regarding the issue. I learned the caller wanted city administration to know Coach Morrison has been a positive, supportive figure in the life of his son and many others. He specifically indicated that he did not know the details of the events surrounding the discipline Coach Morrison received but believes firmly that he and others have mitigating information regarding Coach Morrison that should be considered by city administration.
I was able to determine from subsequent calls and conversations that Coach Morrison was not fired. Further, he did not leave the child on the bus. The mistake was allegedly made by an individual who works for Coach Morrison and was subsequently disciplined.
Community members are troubled by reports that Coach Morrison was suspended, demoted and removed from the Thomas ‘Jet’ Jackson Center and they do not understand why, given he did not leave the child on the bus or support the action in any way. I learned there was an additional issue regarding a certification course Coach Morrison may not have completed.
Simply stated, based on the information known at this time, callers do not believe the punishment fits the alleged misconduct and wish to intervene on Coach Morrison’s behalf. I explained to all of the individuals I spoke with that Coach Morrison should be afforded an opportunity to grieve the discipline and I am hopeful the hearing officer/committee and city administrators will consider the fact that the discipline dispensed does appear heavy handed given what the community currently knows about the situation.
I am pleased to report that at no time did anyone attempt to minimize the seriousness of leaving a child on a bus.
While employed by the City of St. Petersburg, I frequently received calls from city personnel and community members seeking a voice. This article is written in response to community requests and concerns.
Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.