It is with considerable forethought that I write this letter condemning the recent termination of Debbie Warren from her long-term employment with Barton County Community College. As a local student who, along with my twin brother, graduated with honors from Great Bend High School, we had many options. Due in no small part to our father’s devotion to the local community, and his desire to continue to support it in any way he/we could, we both chose to enroll at BCCC in the fall of 1989.
It would turn out to be one of the best decisions either of us would ever make. For me, a huge factor in making it such a great decision was Debbie Warren. Debbie also contributed to my brother, Jared’s, positive experience at Barton as well; but for me, she directly impacted 90 percent of it. I did not choose Barton for cheerleading and had no interest or even awareness of the sport when I enrolled in August of 1989. Due to an unfortunate injury to one of the squad members that fall, however, a spot opened up and I was invited to look into it.
The first thing Debbie demanded was that I meet personally with her. She explained, in no uncertain terms, what was expected and that it would not be easy. In fact, her “speech” nearly discouraged me from pursuing the opportunity, but I showed up at practice the next day anyway. Little did I know that this decision would lead me to the most fun I ever had, my best friend, and, indirectly, my wonderful wife and family.
When I first started out as a yell-leader, I wasn’t very good. I was physically strong, but that was the only skill or attribute I brought to the table (other than a strong desire to support the basketball team). Even though I had a blast, the first year was mediocre, at best, for me. Debbie, however, seemed to have confidence in my potential. She worked very hard to try to develop that potential and by the start of my sophomore year, she claimed that I had made more progress between my freshman and sophomore years than anybody she’d ever coached. That was high praise coming from a true legend and a pioneer in the sport of co-ed collegiate cheer. Had Debbie been at a major D-1 school, she would’ve gone down as one of the all-time biggest influences in the sport. As it was, she created a legendary program from absolutely nothing on the small hill overlooking Great Bend.
In doing so, she not only brought national acclaim to a tiny community college in the middle of Kansas, but she, infinitely more importantly, developed young people. Debbie accepted kids from all across Kansas (and even the nation) and integrated them into high-performing teams that could not only support the Barton County basketball teams, but also stack up in national competitions. In doing so, Debbie Warren developed leaders. Leaders who would transfer the life-skills that she taught them, into career and family skills that are the stuff of great people. Young men and women left Debbie’s program with the grit, skills, and confidence to impact their lives in myriad and unexpected ways.
The stories are diverse, but they all share a common theme: “small town kid makes good under the bright lights and then parlays that opportunity into a successful career and, more importantly, into a family where he/she can pass along those skills, that self-confidence, and those opportunities to the next generation.” At the end of the day, what could possibly better define an educator than that legacy?
I am disappointed in her termination because it appears that it was based largely upon a simple personality conflict between Debbie and her boss. I am far more disappointed, however, in the failure of the board of trustees, specifically, the chairman, to allow Debbie’s supporters to be heard at the recent board meeting. I applaud, and appreciate, Mr. Learned’s recent letter to the editor detailing his dissention from the chairman’s decision. At the very least, Mr. Chairman, Debbie Warren’s service to the community warranted better than that.
I am calling upon the president and the board to please reconsider Ms. Warren’s termination in light of all that she has done for our school and for the hundreds of alumni that that have benefitted from her guidance, coaching, and mentoring.
Thank you Debbie for making a huge positive impact in my life!