Happier days in the MBSEF Nordic camp.BANG! That wasn't the sound of avalanche blasting at Mt Bachelor. That was the sound of the MBSEF Nordic program imploding like a bad New Year's firecracker over the holidays. Unfortunately, the proverbial Swix hit the fan for the Bend Nordic skiing community.
To some degree, the drama began on December 6, when MBSEF Nordic coach Brenna Knowles presented a written statement to MBSEF Executive Director Chuck Kenlan regarding her working relationship with her supervisor, MBSEF Nordic Program Director Ben Husaby.
According to Knowles, "Mr. Kenlan and I met in the fall of 2007 to discuss ongoing issues with Mr. Husaby. Over the course of the year, I was not satisfied with the way that Mr. Kenlan handled my concerns. So, when Mr. Kenlan called me into his office in early December and encouraged me to list all of my issues with Mr. Husaby, I was glad that he was taking another look at my work environment. Unfortunately, a few days later, Ben and I had a disagreement. That night, I hastily drafted a letter containing seven years' worth of complaints and presented it to Mr. Kenlan the next day."
Kenlan shared the statement with the MBSEF Board of Directors and, on December 15, the Board terminated Husaby from his position. Peter Miller, Chairman of the MBSEF board said, "From a legal perspective, this information left the Board with very few options."
On New Year's Day, Knowles circulated a public letter expressing her discontent with how Kenlan and the Board handled the situation and urged them to reconsider the decision.
"I hope that the BOD will reconsider Mr. Husaby's termination given my support for Mr. Husaby and his publicly expressed commitment to work with me as an equal and respected partner," wrote Knowles.
Miller responded in a letter on January 2, 2009: "The decision to terminate Ben, and its aftermath, have no doubt been challenging for all. However, while we recognize your concerns, the Board stands by and will not reconsider the original decision to terminate Ben Husaby as Nordic Director. The Board believes this decision was thoughtfully and fully considered, was based upon factors in addition to the staff member's complaint and was (and still is) in the best interests of MBSEF and the Nordic program. Accordingly, the Executive Board cannot meet with you to address issues related to Ben's termination. That decision is final and will not be reopened."
Miller wrote, "It is essential that we all work cooperatively together with (Dan Simoneau) to move the Nordic program forward in 2009. If you feel that you cannot work with and support the new interim Nordic coach and the direction Dan is taking the Nordic program, then please reconsider your current employment with MBSEF as a Nordic Coach."
The word on the street is that many of the MBSEF Nordic staff are quitting in response and forming a new ski team called Bend Nordic. Rumors have been flying about the status of the Nordic program and race schedule.
Kenlan confirmed that Dan Simoneau was named the interim Nordic Director and will assist in the search for a new permanent director. As for the races, the New Year's Relay seemed to have come off without a hitch. The Great Nordeen Race was postponed to late March or early April and the Nancy P's Classic race has been rescheduled for January 24. Kenlan said, "The MBSEF program will continue with great staff and the race schedule will continue as planned."
No matter how the saga continues to unfold in the coming days, it's painful to see the divisiveness in our community. I have friends on both sides of the rift. In the short term, the racers and the kids suffer from the disruption to the training programs and race schedule. I don't mean to wax poetic, but in the long term, upheaval and change can actually be a good thing. I hope that our Nordic community can find a way to come back together and heal.