Most Lake Forest High School athletic teams did not practice on the first day of a teachers' strike. Some teams worked out. But only one coach crossed the union’s picket line to conduct practice.
That teacher was Head Football Coach Chuck Spagnoli, who met his players at the West Campus for practice in hopes the teachers will settle with the Lake Forest High School District 115 Board of Education in time to play Friday’s scheduled game against Lake Zurich.
Two Scouts confirmed Spagnoli conducted the practice. He also teaches in the health and wellness department. The players asked their names be withheld because of the sensitivity of the situation. When asked about his decision to coach, Spagnoli declined to comment.
"Any member of the bargaining unit (union) who enters a school or coaches a team on or off the West Campus is considered to have crossed a picket line," union spokesperson Chuck Gress said.
Football Parent Understands Coach’s Situation
One parent of a Scout football player said Spagnoli's actions are understandable and defensible.
"(I am) 100 percent behind coach's actions," Hugh Williams, father of Lake Forest junior linebacker Trent Williams, said. "We are proud of what he's doing."
Williams said the issue is front and center with him and other parents, saying there was a flurry of texts and emails Wednesday. He added the Catch-22 scenario Spagnoli is swept up in — coaching his players against his union's wishes or staying home as his union would prefer — is one he does not envy.
"I know he's in a bad spot,” Williams said. “I'm sure he's getting a lot of grief. It has to be killing him. But for him not to show up and leave those kids stranded, he’s putting those kids in a bad place. It's a good lesson for the boys. He’s there for the kids, teaching them to be responsible and you don’t have to be a follower, be a leader."
Lake Forest Field Hockey coach Melanie Walsh, a testing coordinator at the school, conducted the team's practice session Wednesday as did girls’ tennis coach, Denise Murphy. Walsh and Murphy are not members of the bargaining unit and their actions are not considered crossing the picket line.
Mixed Bag for Other Teams
The boys’ golf team was scheduled to play a match against Stevenson Wednesday which was cancelled. Their head coach, Jim Matheson, is a business teacher at the school and a member of the union. But team members worked out in the morning at Knollwood Club in Lake Bluff and played a practice round in the afternoon at Lake Bluff Golf Club.
"It's unfortunate we are not going to school and that teachers go on strike but we will take advantage to work on our game," said senior Ian Mankoff. "We're upset we can’t play scheduled matches but we have to make the best of it."
This echoes the belief of football team members. As their chances of playing Lake Zurich Friday dwindle by the hour, they are focused on what they can control, not on what they cannot.
"It's a weird day but we went out and prepared like a normal day," senior quarterback Andrew Clifford said. "We have one hundred percent focus. We're getting ready. We’d love to play."
Senior defensive lineman Tom Kutschke said: "I don't think any side is right. They just need to come to an agreement. I really want them to just settle so we can play."
Cross country (boys and girls) and volleyball cancelled practice sessions Wednesday, while for girls tennis and field hockey, it was business as usual. Boys’ soccer was scheduled to hold a film session at West Campus. Girls swimming, coached by non-faculty member Carolyn Grevers, practiced at East Campus.
According to IHSA bylaws, if school is not in session, athletic contests (games, matches) cannot be held. But a strike does not prevent practice sessions from taking place.