“Everything went back to normal,” said Ronald “Louie” Stewart Jr., who feared for his job after a run-in with Principal Shontae Higginbottom.
Stewart, a wrestling coach and athletic director at the selective enrollment high school, and basketball coach James McKatherine claim they were yelled at and cursed at by the principal after a back door was left open to students after the 3:15 p.m. dismissal, a violation of policy that led to McKatherine’s firing and arrest.
“I can’t get another coaching job now because I’ve been arrested,” McKatherine said in a Monday morning phone call. He claims he yelled at Higginbottom after she fired him, but did not threaten her.
According to police reports, McKatherine was arrested for simple battery around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school's parking lot at 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. for allegedly threatening Higginbottom.
Higginbottom did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
If an apology is forthcoming, McKatherine said he’s not ready to hear it.
“If she’s going to be principal there, I couldn’t go back,” he said.
On Thursday, frustrated with the run-in with the coaches and restrictive new disciplinary rules, about 900 students at the school staged a sit-in for more than three hours before returning to class. Students said they felt they should be able to return to the school after dismissal as they could before Higginbottom became principal. Some said they often used the computer lab after school.
McKatherine and Stewart both said they were disciplined for allowing students to re-enter the building for a wrestling match.
In a letter sent to parents early last month, Higginbottom explained why she put the new policy in place.
“It is of the utmost importance that students who are not in after-school programs leave the building immediately upon dismissal,” Higginbottom wrote. “Teachers working late and the custodial staff are not responsible for a student’s safety in the building after 3:15 p.m. because this can cause serious liability issues.”
Some at the school believe the issues can be resolved.
“I think we can work it all out,” said Ronnie Williams, the former athletic director at King and a teacher there since 1964.
He said he reached out to the two coaches he hired during his time as athletic director in the hope that the situation could be resolved.
“It’s words, and words can start wars, but it’s time to sit down and reconcile for the sake of the students,” he said.
Chicago Public Schools officials did not respond to quesions on the coaches' claims, but said they continue to work with students and staff after the sit-in.
“Dialogue between CPS and students is an important component of a school culture that promotes learning," CPS said in a statement said. "CPS met with a group of students at King College Prep High School this morning to address their concerns. We will ensure that the lines of communication with these students continue to be open as we move forward.”