The Proviso Township High School District 209 board fired Proviso East varsity boys basketball coach Donnie Boyce at their meeting Feb. 10. The decision left his family, friends and D 209 board member Theresa Kelly fuming. Camera crews from Chicago area television news programs were in the auditorium at Proviso Math and Science Academy, along with about 100 supporters, many of whom played basketball with Boyce in the 1990s.
Boyce, who also served as a security guard at East, was suspended in December after a cell phone video showed him allegedly choking a female student while trying to break up an fight at Proviso East in Maywood.
Two board members did not vote to fire Boyce. Theresa Kelly voted no to the decision and Readith Ester abstained.
“It’s horrible. Who are we to judge him and ruin a man’s livelihood?” Kelly said after the meeting. “It’s a matter of personnel. I don’t feel the board voted on the best behalf of the employee.”
Kelly said the entire video footage from the cell phone was not shown to the public.
“I don’t condone what happened in the video, but if people had seen the whole video then maybe they could understand what truly happened,” Kelly said.
Board member Kevin McDermott voted in favor of firing the head basketball coach and said he found the evidence persuasive.
“It was a tough decision. I liked this guy,” McDermott said Wednesday. “
During closed session, Boyce and his attorney met with school board members in hopes they would let him continue as a basketball coach at East.
“It’s very heart touching and has been a difficult process. I want to thank the board for giving me this opportunity,” Boyce said.
Prior to the decision, supporters for the former coach pleaded to the board to keep Boyce on,, including his former East basketball teammate and friend Michael Finley.
Finley, along with Boyce and Sherrell Ford, best known as the Three Amigos, helped lead Proviso East basketball team to a state championship in 1991.
“He was doing his job to protect the students of Proviso East. I ask that he be reunited with the young men and ladies at the school; He has my back 100 percent,” Finley said during public comment. “He has always been a stand up guy and has always worn his heart on his chest. He’s a product of this community.”
Boyce led the varsity boys team to the state finals in 2011-12 and the state semifinals in 2012-13, both times defeated by Chicago’s Simeon High School.
Other supporters spoke on behalf of Boyce, including Della Patterson, local parent-student advocate, Lennel Grace, president of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO) and former NBA player and East graduate Jim Brewer. Boyce’s mother, Rochelle Boyce attended the meeting in a wheelchair.
“Personally when you receive that type of support, it lets me know the job I’ve done and that people appreciate it,” Boyce said after hearing his supporters.