School board president Mark Sproat recently addressed allegations made by members of the girls’ basketball community at the last D219 board of education meeting, which stretched into the late hours of the night on Tuesday, April 4, as many members and parents of the girls’ basketball team spoke out against the resignation of their former coach, Tony Konsewicz.
It was a heated discussion, with many parents and students voicing their outrage against the perceived abuse of power by Mark Sproat. According to the public comments, this alleged abuse had been ongoing for about two years.
According to the parents and students who spoke publicly at the board meeting, Konsewicz had been at the receiving end of threats about losing his coaching position when he did not put Sproat’s daughter, Casey Sproat, on the varsity basketball team. Sproat allegedly continued to harass Konsewicz about his job and criticized his decisions when it came to the playing time of underclassmen.
However, in a phone interview today with NWN, Mark Sproat repeatedly denied having contact with Konsewicz.
“When this came about, my wife is the one who initiated everything,” he said. “She was the one making the confrontations.”
Some parents at the board meeting referenced videos that surfaced on social media, which allegedly show Sproat’s family cheering against the Niles West team at girls’ basketball games.
Niles West alum and parent Barb Pabst was one of the first ones to speak about the unjust resignation of Konsewicz, and she added additional information about Sproat’s alleged attempts to bully her.
“A year ago, I sent an email to the entire board after Mark Sproat attempted to bully me into allowing him to coach his daughter’s team [in the Niles West feeder program which I oversaw]. Though we have been friends for 10 years, these attempts failed, as I am not an employee of the district,” Pabst said. “I have had a front row seat as to how he uses his position for his children’s personal gains. During this past season, the treatment Tony Konsewicz received because the board president’s daughter didn’t make the varsity basketball team is an embarrassment to the district. How does the president of the board explain cheering against Niles West and for the opposing team? That is childish, vindictive and petty.”
However, June Sproat, Mark Sproat’s wife, in a phone interview exclusive with the NWN this morning, said she believed these allegations of her cheering for the opposing team were “far-fetched.”
“My mother and I went to a game; I thought we could go to games,” she said. “I know they said [at the board meeting] that this was a video of me on social media cheering for the other team. Well, I’m a bit concerned about that because I really don’t remember that happening, but, you know, somebody makes a good play or something no matter what team it is; if it’s a good shot people applaud for everyone. Isn’t that good sportsmanship?”
According to June Sproat, she met with Coach Konsewicz twice in person: once in December 2015, and again in November 2016. She also said she and Mark Sproat attended the first meeting together in 2015 “as parents.” However, June Sproat denied that she or her husband had any communication with Konsewicz besides those two in-person meetings.
“The first meeting that we had, we went as parents. It was obvious to me that they couldn’t differentiate between the parent and the board member, so I asked my husband to leave, and he did,” June Sproat said. “The rest of the meeting was conducted by me alone.”
The Niles West athletic department website lists Casey Sproat as a varsity player for the 2015-2016 girls’ basketball season, but she is not listed as a player for 2016-2017. The girls’ basketball season runs from November to February.
Mark Sproat echoed, in a phone interview, that his wife is the parent who interacts with his children’s coaches and teachers.
“Sometimes people have issues differentiating [that] I am a parent first and a board member second, so therefore individuals can’t separate that; I can’t help that,” he said. “As far as the issues that have happened, anything that goes on with any of my kids, I have to step aside because of the fact that there are individuals that can’t understand that a board member can be a parent too. Therefore, my wife is the one that would talk to teachers, coaches, whomever it might be.”
June Sproat also said that any influence which stems from her husband’s position as school board president does not affect her and her actions where it regards their children and the school district.
“I am my own person. I can speak for my own actions,” she said.
Titia Crespo was another parent who shared her concerns at the board meeting over Sproat’s alleged behavior as well.
‘The role of the board is to oversee the superintendent, who is responsible for overseeing staff,” Crespo said. “It would appear that Mr. Sproat has taken his role as president of the board and confused it with a supervisory role. He has overstepped his boundaries by offering resources to staff with the expectations of special treatment for his daughter. It would also appear that he harasses staff that do not give priority or special treatment to his daughter. I have heard plenty of his nasty comments in the stands about coaches and how he’s going to get rid of them. These rants are especially prevalent when his daughter is not playing.”
Junior Nicole Zelazko spoke at the board meeting about the positive impact Konsewicz has had on her and how it is unfair that he will not be coaching her during her last high school basketball season.
“He is a coach that prioritizes individuality over all else,” she said. “He has always been patient with every single girl that has stepped onto that court. Unlike other coaches, Coach K has taught me that nothing is more important than giving your 100%. Though I do respect his decision [to resign], it is hard to not question his motives. Being one who has personally witnessed members of the board threatening my coach as a professional, I constantly found it quite disturbing.”
Mark Sproat said he did not address the issue at the board meeting because it is school board policy not to comment on the content of the audience-to-visitors section during which these allegations were presented. He said this has been misinterpreted as a dismissal of the community’s concerns.
“Just remember there are two sides to every story. When the parents [and students] came up and spoke about this [at the board meeting], [the board] has a rule that we do not respond back,” Mark Sproat said. “We want to be respectful and hear about what the parents and community members have to say. It’s not that I am ignoring this situation.”
The next board of education meeting will be Tuesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the district administration building.
Editor’s Disclosure: Nicole Zelazko is a staff writer for the Niles West News.
Grace Geraghty and George Panoutsos contributed to this story. Video montage edited by Inana Zomaya; video provided by district 219. The full video of the Tuesday, April 4 board meeting can be found at: http://www.d219tv.org/2017/04/06/board-of-education-meeting-april-4-2017/