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Ashley hoops coach’s firing polarizing school community

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — More than a month ago Ashley High School dismissed its basketball coach. Since then we’ve been getting emails and phone calls from supporters of David Rutledge as well as detractors.

Today this controversy went to a new level when some students walked out of class in protest.

This season was Rutledge’s first as a teacher and boys basketball coach at Ashley. In April administrators dismissed him from his coaching position, and earlier this month they let him know he would not return to the classroom either. It’s a decision that has polarized the school.

“It was precipitated by the false accusations of a couple (of people),” Rutledge said during a phone interview today.

They are false accusation Rutledge says cost him his job.

“He might be a little overbearing, but that’s the way coaches are,” said Nick Saffo, an Ashley parent who supports Rutledge

Saffo came to the school Tuesday morning to watch the coach’s critics protest.

“The people that were here were friends of the people that didn’t get to play,” Saffo said. “That’s the bottom line. Disgruntled parents, helicopter parents, with nothing better to do.”

But one of Rutledge’s students says he bullied some of her classmates.

“He would just get the class to laugh at them,” Kaylie Kirkwood said. “He would say whatever he could to make them feel bad.”

Rutledge denies the allegations, as well as others he says are little more than heresay. He points instead to the dozens of students and parents who attended the May 13 school board meeting to support Rutledge.

“At a time when teacher benefits are lowering and we are losing teachers, we don’t need to lose the good ones, and he is a good one,” Ashley basketball player Trey Williford told the board.

Now Rutledge is out of a job and waiting for an appeal hearing next month.

Rutledge said Ashley administrators told him he was dismissed as coach because he did not deal with high-maintenance parents.

We asked to speak with Ashley’s principal last week about the community concerns. School district spokeswoman Valita Quattlebaum responded in part, “There are some parents who are not happy about some recent personnel changes that have occurred at the school. However, because these are personnel matters, we are unable to discuss them at this time for legal reasons.”

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