ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The former Cooper High School head track coach is fighting her reassignment to a different position, saying she was demoted because she had a baby.
Kolista Garcia served as Cooper’s head track coach for the past 6 years. Prior to coaching her 7th season, Garcia was reassigned. Over the summer, she received notice that she was now the Head Cross Country Coach/Assistant Soccer Coach, not the Head Cross Country Coach/Head Track Coach position she held before.
Garcia says she was demoted due to the recent birth of her son, but district officials say her reassignment, which is in line with her contract, was in the best interest of Cooper’s athletic program.
After hearing of the reassignment, KTAB and KRBC filed a Freedom of Information Act and received 134 pages of documents from Abilene ISD outlining the allegations as follows:
Garcia gave birth to a baby in March and was on maternity leave through the end of April.
In May, Garcia was involved in multiple meetings with her fellow coaches and athletic supervisors.
During these meetings, Garcia says two supervisors and one coach questioned her about her ability to continue working as head coach following the birth of her child. She claims she was asked about daycare and how she would care for the child and still attend practices and perform other duties for the track team.
A month later, Garcia received notice of her reassignment, though athletic supervisors say the birth of her child has nothing to do with her new position.
The supervisors didn’t deny asking Garcia these questions but said they were doing it conversationally and out of genuine concern for her ability to perform her duties. A witness, who was at the meeting, claims the questions were not asked aggressively.
Furthermore, the district says Garcia was one of 17 coaches reassigned for the upcoming season, and though she was a well-qualified track coach, athletic supervisors needed her more for soccer.
The supervisors say their only female soccer coach had just quit, so they needed another female to serve in the assistant soccer position. They say soccer is a high-profile sport, and Garcia had coached it before, so she was a perfect fit.
The District also claims Garcia’s reassignment will allow her to focus on her responsibilities as Head Cross County Coach.
Garcia’s reassignment is also in line with her Abilene ISD employee contact, which she signed for a generic Coach/Teacher position, not for any specific sport or status.
Still, Garcia’s attorney argues that prior to having her baby, no one questioned her client’s focus on both her duties as Head Cross County Coach and Head Track Coach. She always received sufficient or even excellent reviews in her evaluations while holding these positions and other assistant jobs in previous years.
Since June, Garcia has appealed her reassignment three times, requesting her reinstatement as Head Track/Head Cross Country Coach.
The Cooper High School Principal and officials with Abilene ISD have already denied her first two appeals, sticking with the athletic supervisors’ reasoning as to why Garcia was reassigned.
Her fate now rests in the hands of the Abilene School Board.
Last week, former students, fellow coaches, mentors, Abilene ISD employees, and friends attended the public comment portion of a school board meeting where they stood up for Garcia and highlighted why she could get her position back.
The School Board has yet to make a decision on her reinstatement request.
Garcia also filed a discrimination report with the EEOC, the results of which are not known at this time.
When asked about Garcia’s reassignment, Abilene ISD made the following statement:
“Coach Garcia continues to serve as head coach of the Cooper High School girls cross country team as the Lady Cougars prepare for the upcoming regional meet. She also currently serves as assistant coach for the girls soccer team. District policy prohibits commenting further on pending personnel matters.”
Garcia was not able to give an interview to KTAB and KRBC due to the ongoing appeal process but did say she will always stand with Abilene ISD and is grateful for everyone who’s showing her support.
TONIGHT ON KTAB News at 10PM – Hear from Garcia’s supporters as she continues to fight for her position as head track coach.