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Team wants coach reinstated

Published April 19, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - Gulf High swimmers and parents angry about the firing of their coach brought their wrath to the Pasco County School Board.

Now, at the very least, they'll get a meeting.

Gulf principal Thomas Imerson will meet with four swimmers and a parent to discuss last Thursday's dismissal of coach Joe Lampkin, according to an e-mail from assistant superintendent Jim Davis to parent representative Kathy Debow. Debow graduated from Gulf and has four children on the team.

"I have asked him Imerson to meet with yourself as the parent rep and to meet with the 4 captains/co-captains," Davis wrote in the e-mail. "I asked him to do so in a timely fashion and with an open mind."

Davis said in his e-mail he will follow up with both parties after that meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

Swimmers and parents want the coach, fired after one season, reinstated.

Lampkin would not discuss specifics of his dismissal Wednesday. He cited his continuing role as a social studies teacher at Gulf and was concerned about jeopardizing that post.

However, he did offer what he believes should be the standards for any dismissal.

"I believe a coach should not remain coach if he violates the trust of his athletes, the parents, or the school, or if he has a continuous losing record," Lampkin said. "Either one of those is not the case on my end."

Messages were left Wednesday for Imerson and Davis, who were in meetings. Gulf athletic director Paul Girardi declined comment.

At Tuesday's School Board meeting, Gulf junior Keelie Peckham, who has been swimming competitively for 10 years offered her view.

"It's unfair," she said. "He's been nothing but dedicated. He told us we could accomplish anything we put our minds to. Coach Lampkin is by far the best coach I have ever seen."

Though no specific reasons were given for Lampkin's removal, even athletes and parents would say he can be tough and rugged with his comments and criticism toward swimmers.

Those same supporters, including most of the swim team, argue that style helped Gulf develop into a winning team.

Lampkin's daughter, Jessica, was a star swimmer at Gulf and still holds several school records. She is a senior swimmer at Florida Atlantic.

Lampkin has received an outpouring of support from students and parents.

There were 39 swimmer signatures on a petition to School Board members. At least 10 swimmers have sent handwritten letters to Imerson or the Board. And parents have chimed in, bombarding administrators with e-mails, letters and phones calls.

"I want him reinstated," Debow said. "My interaction with the kids in the last week since this has occurred, they feel like they're being punished because there have been no reasons given to anybody for his dismissal.

"They feel like he's the future of their swimming careers. Without him they feel like they will fail."

Izzy Gould can be reached at or (727) 580-5315.

Fast Facts:

On the web

Check out our high school blog to read the student petition from Gulf's swimmers and for extended coverage of Joe Lampkin's dismissal.

[Last modified April 18, 2007, 23:22:48]

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