When Simi Valley High Principal Kathryn Scroggin suspended baseball Coach Mike Scyphers for alleged financial and disciplinary improprieties, the school’s district office was flooded with calls from parents and residents opposing the suspension.
But school board members said Wednesday that Scroggin simply acted according to an informal Simi Valley Unified School District directive initiated in late 1990 by Robert Purvis, the superintendent at the time.
Purvis, who retired in June, felt that some district athletic programs had grown too independent and failed to adhere to district regulations. The school board has continued to emphasize that administrators serve as watchdogs over all extracurricular activities.
Scroggin vehemently denies that she or the school board targets athletics. The district is tough on every program, she said.
“There’s always more to any story than anyone has knowledge of,” she said.
Scroggin has the full support of the board, member Diane Collins said.
“Personally I support what Kathryn Scroggin is doing,” she said. “She’s just doing what the school board has asked her to do. It’s the direction the school board would like to see.”
School board members assert that abuses in athletics have existed for years. Therefore the board has directed administrators to warn violators verbally and follow up with written notices in personnel files when appropriate.
Because those are personnel matters, she said, they remain private. Collins added that violations must be excessive and continuous before they become public matters. The Scyphers situation falls into that category, she said.
“This is not something new,” she said. “To get to this point, it’s been accumulating for some time. It didn’t just happen overnight.”
Scyphers blasted district officials, saying that no one has discussed financial or disciplinary abuses with him. He added that since he was suspended May 3, the district has refused even to meet with him.
“Nobody ever told me anything about the financial dealings with the baseball program--ever,” he said. “It’s a farce, really, that they won’t even talk to me. I am a very ethical, moral (person) and a man of integrity. And they’re trashing it.”
Scyphers also objected to the timing of the suspension, saying it unfairly interrupts the season.
“They want to crack down, they want to get a stranglehold on the program. . . . I never knew we were out of control to begin with. But that’s fine. I don’t think you do something like this with four games left in the season. This is not the way to do things,” he said.
Dave Jackson, a self-proclaimed advocate of high school sports who is now in private business, was forced out as Royal principal last July after six years.
“True, I know most of the board members well and very few are pro-athletics,” he said. “But the policy clearly says to regulate and scrutinize all programs, not just athletics.”
Jackson has known Scroggin for many years and says she doesn’t deserve criticism for disciplining Scyphers.
“She’s not out to get the baseball program,” he said. “She’s just doing what she is supposed to do. If it happened to be a problem with the drama club, she’d do the same.”
Parents of Simi Valley baseball players have trouble believing that. Irene Michael, mother of Simi Valley first baseman Jeff Michael, says the school board is ruining high school sports in Simi Valley.
“Sports are being scrutinized by the board,” she said. “Just look at the figures. All of a sudden these great coaches are slowly being annihilated.”
Scroggin rejected that analysis.
“Things tend to go in cycles so it might appear that one school is more heavy-handed than others,” she said.
The Scyphers controversy is the latest in a series involving sports programs in the Simi Valley district. Scyphers, one of Southern California’s top high school baseball coaches, has admitted that he accepted money from an adult baseball group for use of the Simi Valley High field, a violation of district policy.
He also acknowledges that he has used a disciplinary system called “the block” in which players bid for the right to paddle teammates. The system reportedly violates the state education code.
Police have refused to reveal the subject of the investigation into Scyphers.
Elsewhere in the district, Frank Maye was not rehired in 1992 as Royal softball coach because he took a 16-year-old girl to a rock concert.
In May, 1993, Simi Valley football Coach Stan Quina was fired after asking for a full-time teaching position. He had led the team to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in school history.
In February, Simi Valley boys’ basketball Coach Dean Bradshaw was suspended for the remainder of the season for shoving a player to the team bench during a game.
Board members vow to continue to monitor all programs.
“Our goal is accountability,” board president Carla Kurachi said. “There has to be for all employees and students. Unfortunately, sports programs in the past didn’t have a lot of overseeing so they’re used to doing things their own way.
“Well it’s different now. There’s a new board and we do things differently.”