Ashley hoops coach’s firing polarizing school community

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Submitted: Tue, 05/27/2014 - 9:30pm
Updated: Tue, 05/27/2014 - 11:06pm

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.”


  • Ashley Coach and Teacher says:

    I second that emotion ! Sorry Rutledge, I wish I could help, many of us do, but we are too busy hiding and updating our resumes.

  • Fed up, Ashley fans says:

    Exactly! No way he is that naive, Norvell I am sure had the agenda to get “his basketball coach” in and Turner just used the crazy complaining to serve Norvell’s wishes. At least that sure seems the case, but then I can’t explain hi reassigned he best math teacher to a middle school. Maybe he just doesn’t like men in his building. Anyway, mrs. AK will be there to say what they want, until they try to support his new coach and she gets mad her son can’t score anymore.

  • Beach bum says:

    Take a good look at us. We talk big and act like we are an up and coming community, but we are really VERY provincial and closed. Had this teacher/coach been a home town guy, we would have never say back and let this happen. Actually, would the 2 player families have even complained so much if thought he was hometown. Instead, they assume he is big city and urban, and not a fit. Actually, Coach Rutledge was perfect for our population. Shared our values (generosity, responsibility, clean-living, and family), he grew up in a small town, and is committed to improving our school and helping our kids. We should look and get to know people before we judge and yell !

  • James E. Lewis says:

    In this day and age of political correctness I often wonder how soft some of these parents are making their children. If they can’t take the heat now what are they going to do when they get older. Remember when they get to college the professor doesn’t care if they get it or not, what are you parents going to do then. For those athletes who thought the coach was hard, you had another choice that you could have taken, quit the team. What do you expect at the next level in college. For Ashley High School Administration the saying you lead by example and the example that you have set is why teachers are leaving this state in great numbers. The Administration has no backbone and any one who was thinking about applying for a position at your school should truly think twice because they may get thrown under the bus like you did Mr. Rutledge. If I were him I wouldn’t even wait until the end of the year before I’d walked out of you classroom. Who wants to work for an administration that has already shown that they don’t back their teachers. With all that teachers have to endure sorry or inadequate leadership shouldn’t be one of them. Just think of the money the school system could save if the scrapped high school sports all together.

  • Kirk Stroud says:

    I’m not getting into all the other stuff. I’ve said my peace about the coach and I’m done.
    If you eliminate sports, you have to eliminate all other clubs. There could be no extracurricular activities at all. No after school programs period. You eliminate one, you have to eliminate all others.

    I couldn’t agree more that teachers are way underpaid. My mother was a teacher. Coaches get about $1000 extra to coach. Divide that by the hours they put it, it’s way under minimum wage. If you take away sports, you take away just about the only way for the school to make money outside of taxes. Nobody is going to pay to go see a kid in chemistry class, or typing class.
    I don’t have a kid, yet technically I do pay for teachers and coaches and school programs. So I want my money back that goes to schools. I don’t have a kid there to be paying taxes for. Right? That is the concept you are getting at. I TOTALLY agree teachers are grossly underpaid, as are the coaches. Taking away sports just is not the answer. Kids already have to pay for their team shoes. Then parents have to pay to go watch them play. So the school isn’t struggling money wise because of sports. If anything, it gives a lot of kids a reason to stay in school and to work on their grades. Then my tax money will go to feed them on welfare.

  • AHS fan says:

    Thank you Ashley Administration for doing what was right. Such a great hire at the head coaching position. Glad to see an Ashley Alumni lead our team, I know there are great things to come for this program. Glad this is all over and we can move on in the right direction. So sorry to the sore losers. :)

  • G says:

    Well said, very true. You would have loved to play for Rutledge.

  • Guest246 says:

    Interesting how principal Norvell has yet to chime in on this. It is a personnel issue they say. But students walking out of class in protest is a student issue as well as a safety issue. It is also a lack of respect issue. Where is Mr. Norvell. He has been told to keep his mouth shut by the board of education. Maybe we can ask his vice principal that lady who never leaves her office or his. Oh wait she wouldn’t know because she is always at New Hanover basketball games instead of coming to our games. I guess her old school is more important that our school so how would she know what is going on at our school? What about Mr. Locklear. Shouldn’t he have something to contribute since he is the only one who leaves his office every day? We could ask old Roy but he is too busy running off all of his coaches and then trying to get statements from them to prove he is such a good guy to work for. Is there anyone that can speak for the school administration or do we just listen to the nice school spokes lady to cover up for our absentee and clueless leaders at Ashley?

  • jj says:

    I don’t think the school should be in the business of sports. I think all sports should be eliminated and all the money should go toward teachers pay. If the parents want their kids to play sports it should be after school and not supported by the school system.

    That would stop all this and the parents can get together and pay for a coach, then if they don’t like him they can fire him and find someone else.

    This would sport the 2+ million football stadiums that each school has to have and the school system has to maintain.

  • Inside NHCS says:

    Not yet. He will be around until he gets out anyone he has hired (inexplicably) and gets his kids jobs.

  • CJ Ashley Fan says:

    Finally, after all of this insanity we see your goal! Norvell names his former colleague and friend from his prior school New Hanover to be basketball coach. Principal Norvell was hired after Badketball Coach David Rutledge was hired. Since, there has been strange doings and aims to inexplicably get rid of the successful coach and teacher against much protest from parents and students. Now we finally see why. I understand wanting to help out ‘your boy’ but at what cost. Slandering and trying to remove an honest man and great teacher.

  • CJ says:

    “Sorry to the sore losers :) “. You are evil. This was not a game. You did not WIN anything, even if your son is going around bragging about all the “thanks”, your family deserves for getting a great teacher and coach fired, just because your son didn’t play. The kids have lost out. Your son has lost out. I know you can’t see it now. You just see a chance to muscle a new coach, get your hubby on the sideline again, and feel important. Fine. We have all seen you pull this before. But, know, that it’s not a game. It’s someone’s life. It’s our boys lives….. And WE will enjoy watching YOU ALL get the “thanks” you deserve. :) *\o/* Karma

  • T- concerned student. says:

    Ok, so there is a new coach – why can’t he be my teacher though ? My sister had Mr. Rutledge and it was the hardest AND most rewarding AND most fun class she said she ever had. She feels totally ready to take any class next year because Mr. Rutledge taught her how to study. I want that , I need that !

  • Hunter says:

    Check out the teacher workplace survey for Ashley High School that was released this spring. It is done by the Department of Public Instruction and Ashley is at the bottom of the state with its administration results. The drops from the lat principal to this one – Mr. Jackson Norvell – are free falling huge changes in the 50% range. Incredible! This will run off good teachers in a place that has always ha good teacher-student relations. Yep, Thank you Ashley administration! You have been so busy trying to bully and run off your coaches that you stopped doing your job and with those tactics lost the respect of the building – kids and adults !

  • Concerned Parent says:

    All we have heard about since this started was the problems these parents have caused at MPO, Murray, CB Lifeguards, PISA, and now at Ashley. The principal and AD really should have considered the sources. Apparently all they had to do was investigate their history of causing problems everywhere they have been. So you have allowed them to go so far as to try and ruin a career? Just make sure the new coach knows who he is dealing with.

  • DiamondsR4Ever says:

    Ashley ya need to git over it. Got news 4 ya blue shirt wearers mommy & daddy not gonna help ya outta everything. Heard ya “d1” parents caused problems down here in the past to. Always seems to be sumthin with people like this. Always about self. Glad ya didn’t come here… FrFr. Sooner ya get those people out – better off yall will be. Or maybe ya’ll need to do the thing about going to another part of the state, everybody knows what you’re about in this county.

  • Coach says:

    How come Roy turner hasn’t been fired yet? I mean look at his sorry effort at building and managing this schools athletics. Doubtful this man could even manage a fantasy football team. Time to hit the reset button on him and get someone who has motivation and has the ability to stand by his coaches.

  • Heather says:

    The AD and principal should be ashamed for rushing to judgment on Rutledge in order to appease a couple of overbearing parents. As former Division I player at a nationally ranked basketball program – who has also observed Coach Rutledge in action, I speak to those parents in particular.
    If you and your young men could not handle Coach Rutledge’s manner and demands, fear not; you will not have to complain about coaches any longer because your kid will NEVER make it at the next level. But rest up, because you will have to complain to your kids’ boss when he or she “bullies,” “abuses”, or demands too much from your baby. Our ill-prepared workforce is a credit to parents like you.

  • One Athlete says:

    Coming from a former graduate, athlete and coach at this school there’s one thing that runs the best people out, politics. Everything I have witnessed about this man I respect very deeply. Rare to see a coach from Ashley high school put everything into transforming his athletes and involving them in the community. How is this school going to progress when all the good coach/teachers are fired or leave due to politics. If you can’t handle being on an athletic team that’s demanding then leave, no one holds you prisoner. Hard work is not for everyone, progression does not occur normally when all you do is complain. Parents need to sit back and let their children learn a lesson. Real life is just around the corner and will their parents save them from that too? Too much homework and classwork for a high school class….Go ahead and just stay at home cause college may not be for you. You have to put in a lot of work just to keep your head above water in the real world. Really can’t believe these “athletes” protested outside the front of the school and got their friends to jump on the same boat. Just looking at that sign they made in protest shows you just how much work they put into something they care about…homeless solicitors would put them to shame with that bad advertisement. They need to work harder if they want to make a difference, but sadly Rutledge will probably lose everything for this. Mr. Rutledge unfortunately things may be down now but they get better, just gotta keep on going. As for all you concerned parents and “exceptional” athletes, who is next on your list to be fired? Let the false accusations begin on another coach or teacher who throws their heart into everything. Glad I got to have a good coach at Ashley to prepare me for reality. RIP quality coaches/teachers and staff at this school.

  • Smh says:

    A teacher is being railroaded by a group of administrators. Where are the left wing advocate groups? This coach has yet to be defended by the armchair experts. So where are they now? I guess they just pick and choose the people who can help them make headlines. Here’s your headline. Where are you?

  • Mavericks2010 says:

    We loved him, and still do. Would take Coach Rutledge back tomorrow, but opening are at other school in the area instead. At every school there is one parent who thinks their kid is above working and entitled – if you don’t see that, it was probably YOU!

  • D I Proud Dad ! says:

    My kid is playing in college thanks to Coach Rutledge! He raised the program, our kids got pride and got excited, we got college looks, and now several of us aren’t paying for college! Again, thanks Coach Rutledge ! Let coach do his think – work with kids. You will appreciate the journey and the results.

  • Former CMS Administrator says:

    Unfortunately, he unprincipled principal stayed and Coach Rutledge left us, but CMS has to date NOT adopted the 50 as the lowest grade policy – not at MC or system wide, both of which had begun. Rutledge’s self-sacrifice saved face for us. That’s why if made perfect sense for such a super coach, who could have gone anywhere, to go to Athletic anemic Ashley. Ashley is a smart student body, and academically serious place…. Well it was. Ashley’s current principal didn’t hire Rutledge and sold his soul to a few parents, instead of supporting a guy who teaches and motivate kids to unparalleled heights and whose scores WILL BE HUGE. Believe me, I have seen his past records – they will blow others away and be super impressive even for Ashley standards.

  • Sofi in CLT says:

    And by “what really happened at Mallard Creek” you must mean when Rutledge stood up to a principal, who in a desperate attempt to boost/manipulate her performance rating, mandated that all teachers start their grading scale at “50” and not at zero, when all the while said principal attempted to justify her policy by saying (even on the evening news) that changing grades in the grade book from 0 to 50 would not give the students any benefit!?! And because Rutledge challenged her inconguous policy of awarding credit to students who did not even bother showing up, he was shown the door? Because that is “what really happened at Mallard Creek” from someone who knows.
    Rutledge has integrity and speaks honestly. To quote the inimitable Jack Nicholson as Col.Jessup, “you can’t handle the truth.”

  • CJ says:

    You say that Coach over tine would have had the best record if given time. He had The second best record in school history and had NO ONE ! 2 of the returners got recruited away before the school year even started and he still had more success than all but our season with a senior D I player. Well done coach !!

  • Joelle says:

    Funny you should mention that because a group of us parents had a meeting with the Athletic Director at Mallard Creek regarding Rutledge. She said at first his coaching style was met with a little resistance but over time he was well received. He left the school with their best basketball record to date. She said, “He was an asset to their school and she didn’t want to see him leave.” If only Ashley had an AD that recognized that a good program is built over time. Rutledge would have formed one of the best basketball programs around the area if he was given a FAIR shot!!!

  • Sharksteeth says:

    You think this coach talks and treats players with disrespect, you should have your kid play for Coach Queenie at Hoggard . You talk about negative. Ole’ Coach Queenie went to college to coach but he could never have played or he wouldn’t talk to his players the way he does !

  • Ashley parent says:

    Coach serve at the whim and will of the principal – I get it. But, why remove a great teacher. Why not look at his scores and results first, then make a move if he did do a good job. This distraction and bitter slander the 3 families backed into a corner are making is not worthy Ashley High or you.

  • Caroline J says:

    OK. Struggled with your comments. (Proofreading is your friend). But, I think your point now is, that you are arguing against Rutledge, because maybe your child started every “season game” (?) and played “too much”. Previously, he didn’t know who to put in and he played weak players over the better ones. Now, it’s the opposite. Now, he is “manipulative”, yet your kid still plays a different sport each season, although that fact doesn’t stop him from saying on the news that “Rutledge doesn’t let you play other sports”. Your sons do not “give in” and volunteer with other teammates. Just how are they being so “manipulated”. You truly just throw words around. The same way you get to live in “your truth” and write it, we get to call it as we see it as well. You don’t get to bully us and the airways, like your boys bully kids not wearing blue. (My kid didn’t even know why received the text from your boys to wear blue. I had to take him in another – not blue – shirt, when he realized what they were doing. )

  • Truth Seeker says:

    Awesome points and so true. There is so much more that these players have been hiding that would bury Coach Rutledge. I say go find out what really happened at Mallard Creek as many Ashley Rutledge supporters might be shocked.

  • Come on Ashley says:

    Please, what is “morally right” – you say ! With the straight up lies and rumors you have started and perpetuated you know nothing about what is moral or right. Not you or your sons. I hope he sues you and the school for slander.

  • Ashley eagle says:

    Hope I can clear the air with comment. The issue at hand obviously isn’t about playing time, there were for of the five starting players out there protesting. All of which played every season game and if anything were forced to play too much time on the floor. Honestly, these individuals advocating for Rutledge do not know what they are talking about and of they did they would be smart enough to realize the truth is directly in front of them. Finally, the man who gave his testimony was the parent of a junior varsity basketball player, his son didn’t even play on the varsity team so who is he to call out other parents? And how immature can you be to call high school students losers (on camera) for standing up for what is morally right. I thought school was a place for education no for manipulative psychology teachers.

  • Fed Up Ashley Parent says:

    Emotional and Psychological abuse, GIVE ME A BREAK!!! A couple chronic complainers are ruining it for so many other students/athletes at Ashley. Word on the street is there’s a history of chronic complaining amongst one family in particular. Son doesn’t make the cut to becoming a life guard; let’s march down and complain! Son didn’t get a certain award in Middle School, award no longer exists the following year. There’s a pattern here and someone needs to investigate the source of these complaints!!
    Quite honestly I’m not sure how ya’ll can sleep at night.
    Rutledge is the most selfless person we’ve met. He TRULY has his students/players best interest at heart. He’d give you the shirt off of his back and it’s a shame that Ashley Admin is letting a teacher of this caliber leave the building.
    Oh and BTW..there were times when the JV players were in the varsity locker room after games, along with most practices and there was NOT abuse going on. Maybe some are just a little more sensitive then others…most likely due to the coddling that is going on at home.

  • Ashley ballet says:

    You make me sick. How can you be so two-faced? Wish me and team well, and then lie on us, coach, and program. How can you? Or have your sons been lying to you, and you are just mouthing off for them based on bull they told you. Either way, it is inexplicable !

  • Ashley Baller says:

    We said. And Rutlege WOULD give the shirt off his back, or buy shoes for a family with two kids on the team, who said they needed help providing for both. Just the kind of selfless guy he is, shows his values. Guess you guys really showed him! No good deed…

  • The Sheriff says:

    Keller family and all “whistleblowers” –

    Let this be a learning lesson of putting “self” before “team.”

    Do you know where whistleblowers and dime droppers find themselves afterwards?


  • Concerned Parent says:

    It’s no surprise to see who’s in the middle of controversy, again. Set the record straight, Ms reporter you should check your sources, they have a history of doing this to leagues and teams – MPO Baseball. Bullying tactics, really? Does anyone else find this hypocritical from this family?

  • Keller Family says:

    This is nothing personal….if you are a true dedicated athlete then nothing or anyone can stop you from becoming a better basketball player. You can improve your game by working hard on your own, with other players, travel ball or playing in leagues. The more experiences you have in life the better it will make you. We are not sure who you are from your post, but you still can have the chance to be in the starting lineup, whether the coach was Rutledge or the new coach……Reach for the stars and we truly wish only the best for you.

  • Searching for the truth with an 8th grader says:

    How did coach respond to the accusations of poor behavior and playing time? Did kid and coach meet first or you and coach?

  • Ashley Baller says:

    Your son started and played a lot. He wants to play other sports and sing and do other activities, great for him. What I think, you are against is the fact that I want to work hard with coach – let me. And, if Ry wants to play tennis than he can – let him. But, don’t keep me from getting better just cause ya’ll don’t want me to. Who knows, maybe I just might have had the chance to work hard enough to take a spot in the starting lineup. You say you speak for 4 starters – Good way to keep the 4 starters you talk about happy – run off coach so no workouts for the rest of us.

  • Your Former Player says:

    Abuse? Coach Rutledge harm kids? Are you kidding? The truth ! Mr. Keller, is that I, we, SAW you hit your son at practice when you coached us. You were crazy and cruel, and we were afraid. Maybe the stories invented online and spread about Rutledge, were really not fiction – just not really about Rutledge. And sorry, no one can truthfully say 8 out of 10 players complained about coach – Our AD and principal even deny that.

  • Concerned Parent says:

    These people calling out bullying tactics? Does anyone else find this hypocritical?

  • TJ says:

    At least the school is not answering the questions for legal reasons. What is going on with the obsurd allegations. 2 students and their parents made several complaints ALL of which were too bogus to even print, but still said. What about the slander laws in this state. Go after this B.S.

  • Keller Family says:

    To set the record straight there were 8 out of 12 varsity players that complained to the Administration about the bullying tactics of Mr. Rutledge. He did not respect these young men as players or people. There are 2 sides to every story, please take a minute and respect the other side for what these young men endured. This had NOTHING to do with wins and losses or playing time as one parent(Nick Saffo) and Mr. Rutledge expressed, it was about the emotional and psychological abuse that he inflicted day after day. Most of his supporters are parents of JV players that did not experience game time and locker room contact with Mr. Rutledge. I mean no disrespect to these parents, but they must understand that these are all good kids that did not deserve to be treated this way under any circumstances. They are not lazy, they do not expect things to be handed to them….they work hard for everything, they are dedicated student athletes. We as parents have a very important job and that is to protect our children, if you are a parent and you feel that your child is being harmed emotionally, mentally or physically wouldn’t you do everything and anything to make it stop? This is what happened to our kids…like it or not this is the truth. If you want to comment on this story be real and put your name to it, don’t hide behind your opinion.

  • Beachbabe says:

    I love ya, KK, but we heard you planning out what you could say to get on TV. You did look cute, but was it worth it? We all know you loved and rocked his class and will nail the exam and get college credit, save money, take less classes, all great stuff,… But if you can get on TV, go for it and sell him out.

  • Cheereagle says:

    Back off, she said she was sorry.

  • Baller 13 says:

    Go RK, Go.
    Transfer RK, Transfer.
    Just Do It, already!

  • D-$ says:

    If those kids at the beach don’t appreciate you, come on back. We miss you and love to work hard.

  • Blue Devil says:

    Please take off the all the Duke gear. If high school ball and high school classes are too hard, and you are crying about them, please take off the Duke gear. You will not get in or hack it there and are hurting our brand with the whining and protesting.

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