What a strange sequence of events we have witnessed recently at Lake Highlands High School.

One particular episode enraged many in the Lake Highlands community and seems to epitomize the increasing loss of confidence among many neighborhood parents in the Richardson Independent School District administration.

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Mike Zoffuto, the head football coach at Lake Highlands High School, suddenly became the target of an internal investigation into alleged improprieties that ultimately led to his negotiated departure from Lake Highlands High School.

This particular story created quite a controversy in our community. One of the people who stepped forward and took a public position in support of Zoffuto was long-time neighborhood resident, school supporter and Wildcats football game announcer Bill Blaydes. He expressed his support for Zoffuto and called for a fair and impartial review of the allegations against Zoffuto.

Little did Blaydes know that by publicly expressing his loyalty for a friend and insisting on a fair investigation, he committed the unpardonable sin of crossing some members of the high school’s faculty.

It seems that back in February, high school principal Ron Mathews asked Blaydes to read the graduates names at commencement. Upon seeing Blaydes publicly identify himself with Zoffuto, several high school faculty members circulated a petition demanding that Blaydes be removed from the event.

The petition was presented to Mathews, who decided to grant the faculty’s demand and notified Blaydes – one day prior to the Friday commencement – that his services wouldn’t be needed after all.

Because the decision was made at such a late date, Blaydes’ name appeared in the commencement program. Oh, and one more insult: Blaydes’ youngest child was part of the graduating class.

Mathews says his decision was based on the faculty’s request. He says some faculty members suggested that commencement is a school function where faculty and administrators honor the graduates, so the program should be run by faculty members only.

“Some of Bill’s statements to the media were contrary to the opinion of the Lake Highlands faculty and staff,” Mathews says.

I called RISD board members and Lake Highlands residents Anne Barab, Mike Tabor and Ron Hughes for comments.

Only Hughes responded: “The whole incident was regretful.”

Outgoing Lake Highlands PTA President Carol Avery was one of the parents outraged by the incident. Avery says she immediately wrote Mathews and made five points challenging his decision, including:

  • Replacing Blaydes was a decision brought about by a partisan petition.
  • It was an impulsive decision prompted by faculty pressure.
  • It was a negative distraction from a once-in-a-lifetime event for the graduates and their parents.
  • Blaydes’ name already was on the program, so his removal would result in public humiliation for him, his graduating daughter and his family in the Lake Highlands community.
  • It was a decision that sends a dangerous message to the parents and taxpayers that they had better refrain from differing with the high school faculty and administration.

It seems that some members of the Lake Highlands faculty have a problem when their opinions disagree with those of the parents, students and taxpayers who pay their salaries.

Bill Blaydes, whose 17 years of service in Lake Highlands include several stints as PTA president, Wildcat Club president and Wildcat football game announcer, suffered the unfortunate realization that speaking one’s mind carries with it certain consequences.