Back in the saddle again?

"Tom Oliver found out earlier this week he'll be returning to King's West School for the 2000-2001 school year.What wasn't immediately clear was what Oliver would be doing once he got back from his one-week forced hiatus.It's not defined what I'm gonna do, Oliver said. We're kind of in negotiations.Oliver, the school's athletic director and transportation coordinator as well as head coach of its successful girls basketball team, was dismissed last week by Crista Ministries, the Seattle organization that owns King's West. The reason given for his release was that Oliver was late returning a signed contract for the year, but school officials admitted that it was a cost-cutting move to help relieve an estimated $400,000 shortfall the school is battling because of reduced enrollment this fall.Contacted Tuesday, Oliver said, I've been reinstated, at least in a financial sense.That means Oliver will have a job at the school when the doors open this fall. Because his duties were reassigned to other staff members, however, it will take some time to figure out which of those he'll reassume and what new duties he might be assigned or offered.When they let me go, they went out and did their thing, Oliver said of the reassignment of his duties. We're still working through that.Oliver said he would be meeting with King's Schools superintendent Mike Martin and principal Nick Sweeney Wednesday and Thursday to discuss how he would fit back into the King's West staff. Attempts to reach Oliver Friday prior to the Reporter's press time were unsuccessful.Crista Ministries president Jim Guinn was on vacation last week and unavailable for comment. King's Schools superintendent Mike Martin was away from the Seattle campus Friday and could not be reached.Oliver was informed by Martin and first-year King's West principal Nick Sweeney on Thursday, July 20, that his contract would not be renewed for the school year which begins next month. He was told that his failure to return his contract on time gave the school the opportunity to save his salary, which reportedly is less than $40,000, and reassign his duties. Sweeney was to take over as athletic director, a position Oliver had held since the school's inception.Oliver, hired by Crista when it opened King's West in 1992, admitted he had been tardy with his contract, but said that he had made known to both Martin and Sweeney his intentions to return this year. He appealed the dismissal and was informed of his reinstatement early this week.I had to go to the top, Oliver said of his appeal to Crista.The sudden dismissal, which took place after most school districts had filled staff openings for the coming school year, initially left Oliver without a job. However, he said he received several calls offering employment.Most of them would've involved moving, which we don't really want to do, said Oliver, who moved his family from Lake Tahuya last year to be nearer the King's West campus.Oliver, whose King's West girls basketball teams have been to the state Class B championship tournament four of the last five years, has stressed throughout the last couple of weeks that his intention always had been to remain at the school, which his three children all attended last year.His dismissal was protested by his returning players and by the school's Parent Association. Varsity girls basketball players and their parents were granted individual meetings with Martin on July 24 to voice their concerns.King's West is anticipating a drop of about 70 students from its 1999-2000 enrollment, according to Martin.Tuesday, while parents and students were expressing relief over Oliver's apparent reinstatement, he was reluctant to call his return a done deal, at least until his meetings with Martin and Sweeney were completed.I want to come back, he said. We'll just have to see how this plays out."

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