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168 Days: The Next Domino To Fall

By Ken Snyder

As I mentioned in Deployment 2011, upon returning home I was told that I needed surgery to repair I hernia discovered during my deployment. Something else needed to be addressed upon my return to Kansas City, Kansas as well, it had to do with my position at Wyandotte High School.

Just before my deployment and at the end of the 2010 - 2011 school year there had been some issues with the number of hours I was working. During the fall and spring school sports seasons (when the stadium is being used) it's quite easy to log close to 40 hours a week. There are times in the fall when there are activities five days a week, as the stadium is host to boy's varsity football and boy's varsity soccer teams from two high schools, junior varsity football from one high school, and middle school football on some Saturdays. In the spring we would host girl's soccer from two high schools, a high school track meet, middle school track meets during the week and middle school soccer on some Saturdays. On some afternoons in the spring it was not uncommon to have multiple events on the same day: baseball on the baseball field that was a part of the stadium complex, and girl's soccer in the stadium itself. Between all these events you had to schedule field marking and hope you had weather that would cooperate. In the fall I would sometimes have assistance with field marking, but setting up for all the events and marking the fields in the spring was a job I handled on my own. Of the three high schools that have what are called "district stadiums" only Wyandotte's was primarily operated by someone that was not a part of the building staff. I was routinely told how well things were operated and how good we were able to make the fields look.

Wyandotte High School's Stadium

The problem was what happened once the seasons of operation in the stadium were over. There was no reason to have someone in the stadium, and I would be the first to admit that. My hope was that we could work out a plan where I had some sort of regular employment, possibly working inside the school or anywhere else in the district that I could be of service. Getting between periods of stadium activity was too much of a strain without meaningful employment, and I could not look for another employer and say "I need to be off two of the four seasons to work at the school" and expect an offer.

The first thing a lot of people ask at this point is "how did you do this while at BPU?" In the spring season for 2010 I actually had help, to some extent. He showed up some times, and other times he didn't. His position was made possible by the fact that he was in a relationship with the Athletic Director at the time. Believe it or not, he was also a meter reader for BPU -- this also meant that he was off work earlier than I was and should have been able to work before I got there. Another thing to my advantage was how "late" (8:00AM) I started at BPU -- it allowed me to do some setup duties before I went to work, and finish it before the events started. Field marking was something I could accomplish after hours, and if necessary, on weekends.

By the spring of 2010 the communication with the Athletic Director was poor at best. More than one time I learned about events at the last minute, and the idea had crossed my mind that this was not going to continue -- the school would have to find someone else to operate the stadium. My feelings changed somewhat when the Athletic Director was dismissed. I hoped for better communication -- since I was not "inside the building" it was of utmost importance that communication be clear, concise and constant. Did I get calls from the school while I was working at BPU? Yes -- but they did not get in the way of what I was doing at BPU any more than any of the personal calls the other technicians or Working Foreman made or received. I actually got just as many calls from a retired friend who was acting as the "working foreman" at my house that was having its foundation repaired -- but no one made mention of that in their DOL interviews. In fact, it was DeGraeve that said since I was making the good BPU wages it was easier to pay someone else to do the work on the house instead of doing it all myself.

Foundation Repair Work

When I was terminated at BPU, the fall sports season for 2010 was just about a month away. Until early November I had plenty to do, and the school was more than happy to let me rack up the hours. From mid-November to March 2011, however, every time I asked about the possibility to work elsewhere I was met with silence. Of course, when baseball, girl's soccer and track got started I worked as much as I could. When April 2011 was over and I turned in my time sheet, I finally got a meeting with the principal to talk about my hours. The discussion centered around how they couldn't afford to pay me for all of my hours -- but up to that point they hadn't told me a thing about it. I had been preparing a proposal that would provide for stadium coverage when needed and a position elsewhere in the school the rest of the time that I felt was more than reasonable; in fact, since I had government health care through the ANG (and I wouldn't need the school district's health care) it would have been even better for them. The meeting about my April hours was the opportune time to give it to someone who had the authority to forward it to decision-makers with the district. My hope was that over the summer it could be discussed (even if it would have been via e-mail with me while I was deployed) and I could start the 2011 - 2012 school year in a more secure position employment-wise.

While I was deployed, I sent e-mails back to the principal. Much like the communication with the former Athletic Director, all I got was silence. I decided that when I got back from my deployment, a decision was going to have to be made -- I couldn't keep going down this path with no secure employment situation.

No sooner than I got back (and even before I had my hernia surgery) the football coach wanted to know when I could mark the practice field, even after telling him of my impending hernia surgery. I asked "when do you need it done by" -- he replied "tomorrow." That was the typical way things were asked of me: they wanted me to drop everything in my world to go attend to their needs, but when I needed something it was either met with total silence or I was being unreasonable to even ask for it. So I marked their practice field, hernia and all -- my last task as Stadium Manager. I never turned in a time sheet for it, and never got paid again for anything I did at Wyandotte.

One last time I asked the principal for assistance regarding my proposal. Finally, I got a reply -- but it wasn't what I had hoped it would be. I was told she wasn't able to ask for positions, and she could not (would not) help me. This was probably something she could have told me before I was deployed, back in early May when we had the talk about the hours she couldn't afford to pay me for after I had already worked them.

My time at Wyandotte came to an end on 16 August 2011. The weekend before I had came to the stadium and packed up most of my things, and the day before I had removed two items (that I was using there) I promised that I'd return to their owner if I did not work in the stadium any more. Ironically enough, I got a call from the new Athletic Director that day, asking if I could mark the practice field again -- and once more it had to be done right then. Again I was expected to drop everything, pay no mind to the fact that I was still recovering from hernia surgery, and meet their needs.

No one called to see if there was anything they could do. No one even cared to ask how my recovery was going. I received one call from the staff -- and that was to ask how to mark the field, despite the fact that I left them an extensive notebook of how to do everything. That was the thanks I got, and to this day no one else has contacted me from Wyandotte.


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