Lady Cyclones interim basketball coach Jae Kell wants to "rebrand and rebuild" a program she inherited from Ryan Koerdt, who resigned after filing a lawsuit against the Russellville School District earlier this summer.
"I'm hoping we can rebrand," Kell said. "This isn't my first time as a head coach. I was a head coach for three years in Warren and two years in El Dorado."
Kell, an Arkansas Tech University and Golden Suns basketball alum, left her job in El Dorado to take an assistant coach job in Russellville in June. She arrived in Russellville on July 13.
The Russellville School Board accepted Koerdt's resignation on Aug. 27 in a called school board meeting. Kell was named interim head coach in the same meeting.
For Kell, the focus isn't on the past. It's on what makes the program better going forward.
"We had an interest meeting on Monday at lunch," she said. "Our numbers are not where we like them, and we want to give people the opportunity to play if they want to play."
Kell said there are eight Lady Cyclones on roster -- not exactly good numbers for a 5A program.
"We have such good girls, though," Kell said. "We have good kids who have taken everything that's come at them in stride. They come to open gym, and they work hard. I'm really excited to get this opportunity to work with these kids. I played at ATU, and I'm glad to be back in Russellville, and I want to make everyone proud."
Koerdt filed on July 16 against the school district claiming Russellville School District failed to meet Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requirements, which protects any person from gender-based discrimination at school. More about Title IX can be found here.
According to Koerdt's lawsuit, the school did not provide the same facilities to the girls' basketball team as received by the boys' basketball team. Among other things, Koerdt also alleges the school did not let him choose his assistant coach in the same way the men's coach is allowed to choose his.
Koerdt, who was voted 5A-West Coach of the year, and led the Lady Cyclones to a 10-win season and an appearance in the Class 5A state quarterfinals, alleges to have been harassed by the district without just cause after he won a grievance hearing on April 18.
According to the lawsuit, the school had already investigated the incident beginning March 30 to April 9 -- an investigation which led to a grievance filed by Koerdt against Gotcher.
The school board backed Koerdt 7-0 at that time. According to the lawsuit, Gotcher was "terminated for his actions involving the plaintiff (Koerdt) and other ongoing issues."
The lawsuit also alleges Gotcher sent an assistant principal to the girls' locker room after a post-game speech to evaluate and assess what was going on but never subjected the men's basketball coach to the same scrutiny.
Koerdt, who sued another school district previously, resigned as part of a settlement with the district.
As part of that settlement, Koerdt agreed to dismiss all pending legal claims, Koerdt will voluntarily resign employment from the district with no opportunity for rehire, Koerdt and the board agree not to make disparaging remarks about the other and any discussion of the settlement will be limited to only reporting the fact that a settlement was reached and the material terms of this agreement.
Additionally, the district agreed to pay Koerdt and his attorney $137,500.
The district's investigation against Koerdt came from parent complaints against Koerdt's behavior toward players during the season.