LONE GROVE, OK - While harsh budget cuts have affected schools across Oklahoma this year Lone Grove Public Schools' decision to cut a popular speech and debate coach has outraged the community. The Lone Grove Troupe speech and debate team has made a name for itself over the past seven years, bringing home seven straight state titles. But many say the program wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for its coach, Brian Gunter.
Brian Gunter says the Lone grove speech and debate program has been an important part of his life since he was a high school student, and for the last ten years he's served as the team's coach, leading the program to numerous state titles and trips to nationals.
"Everything I do is for those kids, and it feels like I have had somebody stab me in the heart," Gunter says.
"Life changes and there are things that we don't understand sometimes, but this is like having a child ripped away from you."
Parent Robin Rabe is among the hundreds in Lone Grove who are against the school system's decision.
" We may have a speech department, but Mr. Gunter is not replaceable," she says.
Three members of the Lone Grove Troupe will be traveling to Missouri to compete in the national competition this month without their coach. While our calls to administrators were not returned Gunter says they told him his contract would not be renewed due to budgetary concerns. But student Jacob Reynolds says he and other students don't understand how administrators could put a price on their future.
"The program itself is at risk now, and it's something that as a senior having a much of my college is dependent on this. It's like 'why is the administrator going to give us something like this only to take it away when its most important?" Reynolds says.
A Facebook page called "Save the Lone Grove Speech Team" appeared quickly after the news spread. The page has gained over 600 members in just two days. Gunter says while the situation is an unfortunate one, he is overwhelmed with the outpouring of support he's seen from the community.
"It's been nice and wonderful and very affirming to me. And if I was doubting the affect I had on anyone, I don't guess I would now." >
As of right now. Gunter was told he will be teaching at the middle school next year, but parents and students say they are trying to get on the agenda for the school board meeting on June 14th to discuss the issue with the administration.