Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teachers, not kids, use donated Jets tickets

Donor furious, superintendent blames 'miscommunication'

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Dean Coma just wanted to give three kids at Ethelbert School the thrill of their young lives -- great tickets to a Winnipeg Jets game.

So the owner of Central Manitoba Interiors Ltd. in Ethelbert went into the tiny school and donated four tickets worth a total of $732, prime seats behind the penalty box, for the March 8 game against Ottawa, with what he says were clear instructions to choose three deserving children and a chaperone to go.

Now Coma is furious after learning teachers used his tickets and no children went to the game.

Mountain View School Division superintendent Jack Sullivan said Thursday from Dauphin there was a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding about Coma's intentions -- teachers at Ethelbert School bought the tickets to raise money to help buy a piano keyboard for the school's music program.

Coma employs 24 people in Ethelbert, and every year a client gives him four seats to a Jets game. Realizing he'd be out of province during this year's game, Coma decided that instead of giving them to his employees or to family members, he'd arrange a special treat for three of the 85 kids at the kindergarten-to-Grade 12 school.

That was Jan. 25, Coma said Thursday.

He went into the school office and dropped off the tickets. "I said, 'I'm going to leave them with you -- how you give three out of 85 kids a chance, you decide,' " he said.

Sullivan said Coma did not talk directly to the principal, and that's where things went awry; staff thought it was left to the school to decide, and no one called Coma. The staff eventually decided the best way to use the tickets was to draw two teachers' names out of a hat, they'd pay for the tickets and the money would go toward the keyboard fund.

The principal "is in his first year, a fine fellow," Sullivan said.

Both winning teachers took friends, one of whom is a teacher at another school, Sullivan said.

Coma didn't expect any recognition for his donation and hadn't heard from the school. He went into the office of the RM of Ethelbert this week on business and chatted with chief administrative officer Loretta Woytkiewicz, a parent at Ethelbert School.

"At the town office, I heard that no student went," Coma said.

"I know for a fact that no child did go, because my kids go there," Woytkiewicz said Thursday. "It would have been nice if they did go, because Dean's intentions were wonderful. That would have been amazing for the kids. I feel really badly for Dean."

Woytkiewicz said there has been talk around town of teachers going to the game, but she was unaware of Coma's donation until he came into the RM office this week.

"I heard about it at the local coffee shop," she said. The school had said nothing about kids being eligible to go, Woytkiewicz said: "They do get daily notes (sent home) in their agendas, but there was nothing."

Sullivan said he's aware of false "rumour and innuendo" around the town -- such as who went and tickets allegedly being scalped in Dauphin.

"Regrettably, there was a miscommunication and a misunderstanding," Sullivan said. "In hindsight, could they have done it better? Absolutely."

The principal has decided to give the $732 out of the music fund to Coma, Sullivan said.

If that happens, he'll give the money straight back, Coma said. "So I'm the bad guy now?" he said. "I was just hoping to put a smile on some child's face -- nothing is better than putting a smile on some child's face."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2014 A5

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