TAZEWELL, VA (WVNS) — On Hope Road in Tazewell, Tazewell High school students were hoping to save their softball coaches job Monday. Early in November, the Tazewell County School Board decided to vote against bringing back long-serving coach Tom Keene as the high school’s softball coach. Once his student-athletes heard about the decision, they rallied at his defense. 

With an online petition, students racked up 1,200 signatures in a weeks’ time. As one student puts it, they were not going to stand by and let their beloved coach be turned away.

“We believe that what the school board did to the long [standing] Tazewell softball coach is wrong and we’re going to stand up for him the same way he stands up for us every day on the field,” said Macie Alford, Junior Tazewell High School.

A slew of passionate please from current and former students, their parents, members of the community, and faculty were heard during the meeting. Many spoke about Coach Keene’s selflessness, his dedication, and their admiration for their coach demanding the board reverse their decision.

“I’m hoping to get his position back and hopefully he’ll know how many people are here for him,” said Adyn Daniels, Senior Tazewell High School.

For one parent, what Coach Keene’s meant to her kids and her community was something worth fighting for. In an emotional speech to the board, she left the crowd at Monday’s meeting cheering.

“You were elected to represent your constituents to support the welfare of the students and employees of this division. I recommend you start doing so.” said parent Beth Stone.

For the Tazewell County School Board, the message was heard and the pressure these students and the community put on paid off. District Superintendent Chris Stacy spoke to 59 News after the 6:30 meeting to confirm that at a closed-door meeting earlier the board voted to reinstate Keene’s as the softball coach for next season.

“Personnel decisions were made tonight. Coach Keene is the softball coach, head softball coach at Tazewell High School. I was proud of the students that showed up tonight. I thought they spoke passionately, I thought they were very respectful in their comments but also I thought they were very respectful of the other speakers.” said Division Superintendent Chris Stacy.

For now, the community’s support, and the dedication of these students to their coach saved Coach Keene’s position.