Semi Weightlifting Club founder Dieter Stamm says word his club had been ousted from the South Surrey high school after 40 years triggered a slew of support; the school district maintains there was cause for the decision.

Community weighs in on South Surrey weightlifting club’s eviction

Surrey School District ‘doesn’t terminate without cause’

The sudden cancellation last month of space at Semiahmoo Secondary for a long-running weightlifting club triggered criticism of the school district and a slew of supportive messages to the club founder.

“Things have been shaken up,” Semi Weightlifting Club coach Dieter Stamm said Wednesday. “Nobody said it was a good decision.”

Stamm, who started the club in 1970 when he began teaching at Semi, was given three days’ notice Oct. 13 that the school district was cancelling his use of school space.

The move, he told Peace Arch News the following week, was made with “no discussion with me, no consideration with me,” and sparked an immediate quest for a new location.

That same week, school district spokesman Doug Strachan told PAN he couldn’t comment regarding decisions to do or cancel business. He described the emailed notice to Stamm as “all we can say.”

Strachan reiterated the sentiment Wednesday, citing privacy.

However, “we don’t terminate without cause,” he said.

A copy of the district email that was sent to Stamm explains, in part, that school administration was “no longer comfortable with your use of the facility,” due in part to Stamm not remaining in the weightlifting area and communicating with students who weren’t involved in the club.

Strachan, speaking generally, said that whether a renter is given an opportunity to address the cause for cancellation depends on the circumstances.

“Obviously, if there’s something that’s very extreme, we would need to act, quickly,” he said.

Stamm said he was not given an opportunity to address concerns and has yet to hear specifics behind the decision.

“It would be nice if they said exactly what I did,” he said.

Stamm said his presence outside of the weight room was rooted in his 40-years-plus history with the school. He would peruse photos that hang in the hallways, pop in to chat with teachers – some of whom are his former students – and encourage students to come check out the weightlifting club.

And if he noticed that a student was working on chemistry homework – a subject he used to teach – he would stop and chat for a few minutes.

“You don’t stop being a teacher,” he said. “You’re a teacher forever if you’re a real teacher.”

Strachan confirmed PAN’s publication last week of the decision to oust the club resulted in “three or four” critical emails to the district. Comments posted to PAN’s website and Facebook page were also critical of the district. One commenter described the short notice as “absolutely disgusting” and said those behind the decision “should be ashamed of themselves.” Another described the move as “incredibly ignorant and short-sighted.”

By contrast, comments directed at Stamm were highly supportive. One said that participating in the club “was what taught me dedication and determination.” Another said her son “learned so much… not just about weightlifting, but about commitment, dedication and respect.”

Stamm – who was in Nelson last week to help judge the second annual Power by You Classic – said his wife fielded 20 calls on Friday, the day PAN published the story. As well, he received “oodles of emails,” including several offers of new locations, including from the City of Surrey and City of White Rock.

At 74, Stamm estimates he has “another quarter-century in me” of Olympic weightlifting involvement. While he remains optimistic that a new home for the club will be found, he said the cost factor is key.

“It really has to be free,” he said, noting that other than entry fees to the various competitions, he funds members’ participation out of “my back pocket.”

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