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Restructuring at Reggie Lewis — a deeper dive

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Avery Bleichfeld
Restructuring at Reggie Lewis — a deeper dive
The Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center. PHOTO: ROXBURY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Four staff members at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center were abruptly removed from their roles in what Roxbury Community College officials said was part of an organizational restructuring.

The four staff, all formerly part of the center’s top leadership team, were put on paid administrative leave June 11 ahead of officially being removed from their roles later this year.

“I was just very blindsided. I didn’t know how or why this decision was reached,” said Kamilah Rowe, the now-former assistant manager at the Reggie Lewis Center and one of the four staff.

In a statement on behalf of Roxbury Community College, a representative called the move a “retrenchment,” part of an organizational restructuring to eliminate overlapping responsibilities in the four roles — those of manager, assistant manager and daytime and evening fieldhouse supervisors — and “ensure operational efficiency.” As part of that process, the college said it is in the midst of hiring a new director of operations for the Reggie Lewis Center.

The college said the shift stems from the Pathway Forward Report, released by the school in 2023 and outlining needs and plans for growth at the Reggie Lewis Center in light of long-needed repairs identified by facility assessments, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the facility shutter and then reopen as a vaccination site.

The Pathway Forward Report that was released online calls for the hiring of a facilities scheduler but makes no specific mention of otherwise redesigning the organizational structure or creating the new director of operations role.

According to a copy of an official letter communicating the retrenchment, obtained by the Banner, the four staff members were officially put on paid administrative leave June 11 pending the amount of time officially required by the state’s handbook for non-union community college staff before they can be fully removed from their positions. For staff like Frank Jackson, who had been working in his role as evening fieldhouse supervisor for more than 15 years, that means 120 days of paid leave; according to the handbook, it’s 90 days for employees whose times in their roles were shorter, like Rowe and Sherman Hart, the now-former manager of the center.

The college declined to comment on how the responsibilities of the four roles would be restructured into a director of operations position, or why the process seemed to have happened so quickly.

Community members said they think the departure of the four staff members may have an impact on people who make use of the Reggie Lewis center.

Rowe called herself and the other three removed staff the “four pillars” of the Reggie Lewis Center. They, together, had decades of experience at the athletic center.

Jackson had worked there, in various capacities, since it opened its doors in 1995 and had been in his full-time role as evening fieldhouse supervisor since 1999.

Hart had been in his role as manager of the center for 11 years.

Though a recent employee at the center, Rowe, too, had been a fixture at the Reggie Lewis for years — first as an athlete, since she was 12 years old, then as a coach and finally, since 2022, in her support role.

“To become the assistant manager just felt right,” she said. “It came full circle for me and was my way of giving back the community, to really make the Reggie Lewis Center a place that’s for the community and beyond.”

Hart said he feels the action will impact the facility, which gets recognition across the country. When travelling, he has mentioned he works at the Reggie Lewis Center, which he said gets both recognition and appreciation from others in the field.

He said he’s had phone calls from other centers across the country looking for information about how the Reggie Lewis Center operates.

Even in the short term, the departure of the four staff has shifted programming at the Reggie Lewis Center. Rowe said her removal cut short a series of classes for the center’s “Sensational Seniors,” a cardiovascular exercise program for older adults.

But Keith McDermott, who previously served as executive director of the Reggie Lewis Center for 18 years, until 2016, said that the organization shouldn’t just be dependent on specific individuals.

“Any organization should be dependent on systems and functions, that people can be plugged in and operate efficiently,” he said.

The staff members said they were given little notice of the action. An email notification, sent around 5 p.m. on June 10, instructing each to attend a meeting with the college’s human resources representatives the following day served as their only heads up.

At that meeting, they were told they were being put on paid leave, effective immediately.

Rowe, who took a sick day June 10 and 11, replied to the email saying that she was going to be unavailable. The meeting was never rescheduled, and she received all of the information through another email sent to her by the college’s human resources department and an official letter delivered to her.

“To just know that you’re at work one day and then you’re away from work and to then later get a notification that your position is being retrenched and to return all my company items — I just didn’t know what to do or think in that moment,” she said.

Jackson said he didn’t see the email and only found out when he was called into a room with the representatives as he was wrapping up a workout session at the Reggie Lewis Center.

He said that, following the meeting, he was escorted by security officers as he packed up his things and left the building. By the end of the afternoon, he said his code to get in no longer worked.

Retrenchment of the staff also comes as the Reggie Lewis Center adjusts to a new executive director, Michael Turner, who was hired in September.

According to the Pathway Forward Report, the new executive director was intended to be a consensus builder with a focus on community engagement and the center’s budget.

  McDermott, who’s role coaching at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham has continued to bring him to the Reggie Lewis Center since retiring as executive director, said that what he’s seen from Turner in that capacity — and how the new executive director has handled public meetings — has inspired confidence for him and other coaches inside and outside the community.

He pointed to instances of overdue maintenance and repairs that he said were quickly tackled following Turner’s arrival, as well as the “rigorous hiring process” that led to Turner’s selection.

“I know what it takes [to serve as executive director] and I think that he has it,” McDermott said.

McDermott, a member of the board of directors in the Massachusetts State Track Association, also said that others in the track community in the state have expressed excitement to see Turner in the role.

Despite the official statement that the retrenchment is part of an organizational restructuring, Hart alleged that the move might have stemmed from disagreements between Turner and the leadership and an attempt from the latter to garner a stronger sense of control at the center.

The college declined to comment on the allegations against Turner’s leadership in his role as executive director.

But, for McDermott, if the retrenchment of the four staff members was to tailor the center’s leadership team to Turner’s preferences — in its statement, the college did not say that was part of the impetus of the decision — that is within his rights as the center’s new executive director.

“Every leader needs to be able to bring in the team they can trust professionally and personally,” he said.