School district decides to keep coach

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Pawhuska Board of Education voted Thursday, April 13 to have Jason Snodgrass continue next school year (the 2023-24 year) to serve as head coach for high school boys basketball. Four board members voted “yes,” while one abstained.

Tom Boone, Amy Dwerlkotte, Braxton Redeagle and Justin Turney voted in favor of retaining the coach. Shannon Shaw Duty abstained.

The decision reversed the outcome of a vote in the board’s April 10 meeting to decline to approve Snodgrass as the varsity boys basketball coach for 2023-24. The vote was 4-1, with Board President Justin Turney voting “no.” Board member Shannon Shaw Duty said that she had heard about dissatisfaction in the community regarding Snodgrass’s direction of the boys basketball team. She declined to be more specific, explaining that information had been given to her in confidence.

Board members Tom Boone, Braxton Redeagle and Amy Dwerlkotte voted along with Duty on April 10 to not retain Snodgrass. Turney voiced concern that evening about the board declining to honor the administrative recommendation that had been made regarding the hiring of a boys basketball coach “if there’s not some major moral issue.” Turney cautioned against the board micromanaging staffing decisions.

Following the April 10 meeting, a wave of comments on the school district’s Facebook page revealed unhappiness with the vote to not retain Snodgrass. Additionally, a petition handled through the change.org website reportedly drew more than 600 signers in favor of hiring Snodgrass to be the boys varsity basketball coach next school year.

The board held a meeting Thursday evening (72 hours after the meeting in which the decision had been made not to keep Snodgrass) and heard from numerous speakers, the great majority of them favoring retention of the coach. Supporters of the coach described him and his family members as upright, helpful members of the community. Fears were expressed about the damage that could be done to the school district’s reputation and that of the community if the board did not reverse its position.

Noah Willson, a junior at Pawhuska High School and an athlete who has played for Snodgrass, described the coach as “a great influence and leader.”

“He’s a man of faith and he’s not afraid to show it,” Willson said.

Makenzie Riddle, a Pawhuska High teacher who is Snodgrass’s assistant basketball coach, described Snodgrass as an “incredible mentor” and said the boys basketball program is based on the values of selflessness and accountability.

“We can’t accomplish anything if we don’t have selflessness and accountability,” Riddle said.

Rob Pewewardy, who said he has known Snodgrass some two decades, spoke of the coach as a good man and a good friend.

“He has a plan for the future and I think it would be a grave mistake if he is not retained as the basketball coach,” Pewewardy said.

Other speakers – at least two – cast Snodgrass in a different light during the April 13 meeting. They described his leadership as being characterized by an appearance of racial bias, including racially charged comments and jokes at the expense of Black athletes.

Snodgrass was the final speaker, and he described what he was experiencing as perhaps an opportunity to give an example of how to handle oneself when placed in an extremely undesirable position. He did not lash out at his critics.

The board went into an executive session to discuss its response. After the board voted to keep Snodgrass as the varsity boys basketball coach, Turney said the board had taken very seriously the allegations of racial bias that had been made. He voiced a desire for the Pawhuska school district to be a place where all students can learn and grow.