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Coach speaks out, hopes to return next year
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Coach speaks out, hopes to return next year

Branham head boys volleyball coach Heather Cooper speaks with The Mercury News after their loss to Leigh at Leigh High School before their CCS boys volleyball semifinal in San Jose, California, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Region Newsgroup)

SAN JOSE – After the Branham boys volleyball team was eliminated from the sectional playoffs Thursday night, coach Heather Cooper broke her silence.

The woman who lost her job as an accountant last fall turned to the cloud that started with her firing and reached a new level of darkness this spring when athletic director Landon Jacobs was also fired.

“No matter what happens, I’m going to keep fighting because I’m innocent,” said Cooper, who returned after a leave of absence to coach the boys and girls teams. “I feel like my character and my love for Branham are being tarnished and that is painful.”

Neither the school district nor Cooper or Jacobs have publicly revealed any details about why the athletic department personnel moves occurred.

But a 12-page formal complaint filed with the district office last month by supporters of the popular athletics administrators revealed that Jacobs and Cooper were accused of embezzling Associated Student Body funds and failing to follow financial policies following a district audit for the school from 2022-2023. year.

While Cooper called herself “athletic department administrative assistant” in a Friday text message and is listed on the Central Coast Section website as “AD assistant,” the district said her official title was associate student accountant.

The complaint called for the reinstatement of Jacobs and Cooper and the removal of principal Lindsay Schubert, who the complaint said fostered a culture that does not support high school athletics.

Schubert has accepted a job as assistant principal at Los Gatos High effective July 1, the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District announced at this week’s board meeting.

Emails to Schubert and Campbell Union High School District Superintendent Robert Bravo were not immediately returned Friday.

According to sources close to the situation, Cooper’s removal stems from a check refund form she submitted to the school administration.

“I have absolutely nothing to hide in all of this,” Cooper said. “I have been honest from the start. I made an honest mistake. I was more than willing to fix it if given the opportunity, and unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

After Cooper lost her job in the athletic department, she briefly left the team, but returned before the season was over. Her team had won Central Coast Section titles the previous two seasons.

Despite the uncertainty, Cooper led the Branham girls team to the CCS Division I semifinals last fall and did the same for the boys team this spring.

“These teams have given me the bright light I needed over the past 10 months,” Cooper said. “I think what kills me the most is that the seasons have come to an end.”

Her absence from the girls’ program stunned the Branham community.

“This was a team trying to become three-time CCS champions and a week into the season our coach was gone,” a source close to the program told the Bay Area News Group. “Several parents have reached out to get answers, but we have not received them. … The only form of communication came afterwards and we were told in an email from the director not to ask evasive questions about the coach’s situation.”

Months after Cooper was kicked out of the athletic department, Jacobs was let go, sparking outrage among supporters and leading to a change.org petition with more than 1,500 signatures.

In interviews with the Bay Area News Group, Jacobs said he was told his removal in March was based on performance. He does not want to provide further clarity.

Jacobs had been in charge of the school’s athletic department for 14 years, leading it to eight CCS and 57 league championships.

Cooper attended her first hearing on the matter last week in an effort to represent herself before the board. Sources present said little progress has been made and discussions will continue at a future hearing.