After three seasons, Jon Kitna has resigned as the head football coach and boys' athletic coordinator at Waxahachie High School.
The official announcement came just before 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9
Several sources close to the football program stated Kitna began telling coaches and staff of the decision Wednesday morning, Feb. 7.
"Waxahachie football made great strides under coach Kitna's leadership,” said Dr. Jeremy Glenn, Waxahachie ISD Superintendent. “In his time at Waxahachie ISD, coach Kitna developed young men of character and will be missed. WISD will look to move forward building on the foundation coach Kitna and his staff have laid."
Waxahachie ISD Athletic Director Greg Reed has named Aaron Woods as the interim head coach. Woods currently serves as the Indians' offensive coordinator.
Reed will also begin and lead the search for the next head football coach.
Waxahachie ISD Board President James Villarreal said, “We are grateful to Coach Kitna for the impact he has made on our students. Our community, fans, and students will miss coach Kitna’s presence both on and off the field.”
According to Waxahachie ISD documents provided to the Daily Light through an open records request by a reader, Kitna signed his initial contract Feb. 9, 2015. The agreement was valued at $95,000.
Kitna first began his coaching career at his alma mater Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. He helped Tacoma to a 24-8 mark and three playoff appearances (2 first-round exits and a quarterfinal appearance) over three seasons.
He was then hired in 2015 to lead the Waxahachie Indians football team, where he has a 20-13 mark over three seasons and one playoff berth. He had a career 10-12 mark in District 10-5A.
However, Kitna-led teams did defeat Ennis all three times they faced the Lions in the Battle of 287, which will reach the 100th meeting between Waxahachie and Ennis in 2018.
The Indians had five student-athletes sign National Letters of Intent during National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Kitna replaced longtime coach David Ream in Waxahachie after the latter retired following 15 years with the football program. Ream compiled a 102-66 record with seven district championships.
The Daily Light could not reach Kitna for comment. He also declined to interview with the Daily Light following football games during the 2017 season.
OFF THE FIELD
Controversy has marred the Waxahachie football program since Kitna took over in February 2015.
The rumblings began after Kitna brought coaches Casey Kjos, Damola Adeniji, Evan Brady and Matt Kitna, as well as multiple family members of all parties, on board from Washington.
Several residents were outspoken at the time of the hires due to the compensation the first-year Texas coaches and teachers received, as many hurdled faculty with multiple years of experience and already employed by Waxahachie ISD.
According to WISD records obtained by the Daily Light, Adeniji received compensation totaling $69,781, Matt Kitna's contract totaled $76,433, Kjos checked in at $71,781, and Brady earned $70,022 in 2015.
All four were among the 14-highest paid of the 58 coaches listed on the annual pay document. Jon Kitna joined one other longtime head coach and coordinator as the highest-compensated coach or coordinator in the district.
Brady, Kjos, and Adeniji all resigned from the district in 2017.
Brady resigned March 23, 2017, after he injured a student-athlete one-day prior. At the time of the incident, the father confirmed the minor's injury to the Daily Light. He stated his son suffered a laceration on the chin that required three stitches.
He and his son later spoke in support of Brady during a level three grievance that resulted in a 5-2 vote by the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees to accept and uphold the resignation on Monday, April 10, 2017.
According to the WISD DGBA Local guidelines, a Level 3 employee grievance is an option “if the employee did not receive the relief requested at Level 2 or if the time for a response has expired.” The policy also states that at Levels 1 and 2, responses or decisions on the grievance will be “written communication to the employee from the appropriate administrator,” with Level 2 consisting of a conference with the superintendent or designee to appeal the Level 1 decision.
District officials continually stated the priority of the administration is to protect the safety and well being of the students, which is why the incident involving Brady and the student was quickly and thoroughly.
Chapter 247 of the Texas Administrative Code, Standard 3.2 of the Educator’s Code of Ethics states “the educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly treat a student or minor in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the learning, physical health, mental health, or safety of the student or minor.”
After initially exiting the boardroom, Kitna reentered and faced WISD Superintendent Jeremy Glenn and board president James Villarreal. He then exclaimed, “Exactly what I told you would happen, happened! […] Evil won! You let all of the lies happen.”
Shortly after the meeting, Kitna tweeted, “REAL Men, it hurts but don’t lose your dignity. Stay out of the coop. Adversity reveals our character, be what you’ve been trained to be.”
Kitna uses the acronym, “REAL,” to encourage his football team to: Reject passivity, Empathize with others, Accept responsibility, and Lead courageously.
Kjos resigned the following day, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. He told the Daily Light, "It's like I told the kids. It's not a decision about me running. It's a decision about me doing the right thing. I believe they made a mistake and I'm standing by my brother and doing what's right. He made a mistake and wrestled, and a kid got hurt, but it could have been any one of us in that position. He deserved to be punished but not fired."
The resignation of Adeniji was unrelated to either Brady or Kjos.
Months later, a handful of community members reached out to the Daily Light for clarification after a Sept. 10 article submitted by the Waxahachie Rotary Club listed several claims by Kitna about the football program. The article stated Kitna told Rotary members the GPA of the team had risen .88 points since he arrived, six players from each grade level were in the top ten in their class, and 19 graduates are on full football scholarships while six serve in the military.
The Daily Light has not been able to verify all of the claims.
Just before the 2017 football season began, multiple community members provided the Daily Light with photos and videos of the Waxahachie football team conducting partial-contact practices with coaches handling blocking dummies and working the blocking sled during the four-day restriction period of fall practice. A coach within the football program also posted a video of the partial-contact practice to his personal Twitter.
According to Section 1250, 5(C) of the UIL football plan, "during the first four days, however, only shoes, socks, T-shirts, shorts and helmets may be worn. During the four-day acclimatization period, no contact activities shall be permitted."
A Daily Light open records request submitted to the UIL for any and all self-reported violations related to the football program over the last 18 months returned no such filings.
Then, in September 2017, the Daily Light broke a story about a junior high coordinator, who is also a military veteran, resigned his position as the boys’ athletic coordinator, head football and track coach at a Waxahachie junior high school. The resignation was in accordance with a resolution reached between the district and his legal counsel and came after the coordinator felt he was unjustly reassigned from his position.
The resolution agreement was signed Sept. 12, 2017, after the coordinator escalated his initial level-one grievance to level three in an attempt to undo the reassignment. If not rescinded by the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees, his resignation is effective June 4.
“Unfortunately, during my time with WISD, I have encountered multiple personal conflicts between myself and coach Jon Kitna,” stated the coach in his resignation.” “These conflicts began following the unfortunate departure of another coach within the district in the spring of 2017. Since the spring of 2017, coach Kitna has had inappropriate and unprofessional encounters with myself on several occasions which ultimately resulted in multiple grievances being filed and reaching level-three with the district.”
In a text message chain provided to the Daily Light between Kitna and Waxahachie ISD Athletic Director Greg Reed, Kitna stated, “He has to go, or I’m out” in response to a proposed meeting between Kitna, Reed and the junior high coordinator. The following day, the junior high coordinator met with the two and was later reassigned.
District officials contested the justification of the repositioning, stating it was unrelated to any singular incident and was instead the result of a culmination of several episodes. The district and junior high coordinator eventually settled the matter after he filed a level-three grievance; although, the grievance process did not entirely play out.
Kitna is an undrafted journeyman who spent 16 seasons in the NFL and appeared in 141 games. He completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 29,745 yards and 169 touchdowns with 165 interceptions. He played for the Seattle Seahawks, Bengals, Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys.
Sporting News' Alex Marvez reported the Bengals to have interviewed Kitna sometime around Jan. 9 for a then-vacant job as a quarterbacks coach, but the team ultimately hired Alex Van Pelt, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, on Jan. 12.
Aaron Matas with KUSA-9 News in Denver, Colorado reported Kitna was a finalist for the head football coaching vacancy at Valor Christian High School in Denver. Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed Mccaffrey was named the head coach at Valor Christian on Monday, Feb. 5.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith