PANAMA CITY — Volleyball players from Arnold arrived en masse to show support for their embattled coach, Karisa Wesley, at a meeting of the Bay District School Board on Tuesday.
Wesley has been suspended with pay from her post as Arnold’s volleyball coach and athletic director following an investigation by the school district that alleged that Wesley had sexual relationships with a former student, Eddie Williams, and the school’s head coach of the boys basketball and weightlifting programs, Bobby Britton.
The School Board met Tuesday to determine if further disciplinary actions were necessary, including suspending Wesley without pay and moving toward termination,. The board ultimately elected to postpone its decision up to 60 days to allow for further investigation.
“We’re definitely thankful they made this decision,” Arnold senior volleyball player Madi Wichterman said. “It’s in the best interests of everyone. We will get the truth. We will know what happened, and there will be no gray area where there is now.”
None of Arnold’s current players spoke out in front of the School Board, but parents of players did, as did Arnold teachers and former volleyball players from the school. Wichterman’s father, Jim, was among those who voiced his support for Wesley.
One of Arnold’s top volleyball players, Emma Moskowitz, said that there was “no question” that the team would rally around Wesley. Moskowitz was one of more than two dozen Arnold players in attendance, each of them there during school hours after collecting signatures from their parents excusing their absences.
“Right when we found out (about the accusations facing Wesley), it was ‘What can I do to help?’” said Moskowitz, a senior.
Moskowitz and Wichterman each acknowledged that they and their teammates are more of a family than friends. They noted that was something Wesley encouraged all Marlin players to recognize.
“The thing is, we are a family,” Moskowitz said. “We’re all best friends. (Wesley) brought us all together. We know who she is and what she’s helped us through. (Showing support) was up to us since she has no say yet, and we wanted to be able to show what we know about her. … Everyone who knows her knows she’s a great role model and teaches everyone how to be a leader. She has been such an influence on my life and those of other people.”
Added Wichterman: “To have these girls with me through this whole process has been so reassuring. They’re my best friends. It’s good they know what we’re all going through.”
Moskowitz and Wichterman certainly had different plans for how their senior seasons would unfold at Arnold. The ordeal surrounding Wesley undeniably has been a huge distraction for a team with hopes of challenging for a championship in a loaded District 1-5A this season.
Tara Lemieux, whom district spokesperson Karen Tucker said remains under investigation by the school district, is the junior varsity volleyball coach at Arnold and will oversee the varsity team for the foreseeable future.
“I definitely didn’t expect this,” Wichterman said. “It gives us incentive for us to push through this season and fight for our goals. … It’s a speed bump and we’ll get through it.”