SILER CITY — Marcus Globuschutz, the Republican candidate for Chatham County Sheriff, described his being temporarily barred from volunteer coaching duties at Jordan-Matthews High School as “clear retaliation” after he spoke out at a county board of education meeting.
Chatham County Schools officials, though, described the situation as a simple paperwork error made during leadership transition at the school.
At last Monday’s school board meeting, Globuschutz was one of a number of people to speak out about an incident at Bonlee School — an interaction between a student and a teacher that the student’s father and other parents believe was “bullying” by a teacher for the student’s expression of faith. The sheriff candidate thought his remarks, made during the public comment portion of the board meeting, were the impetus for a background check by Jordan-Matthews High School.
“My concern is I have a special needs child at Jordan-Matthews,” he said at the board meeting. “If a child in the 8th grade is belittled for their belief, how is my child going to be treated because he’s different?”
Globuschutz went on to say at the meeting that many of the people in attendance “would not support” the board — meaning they would disapprove of its recent actions, which Globuschutz didn’t specify. He said he decided to speak at the meeting from the perspective of a concerned parent, rather than a candidate for office.
Then on Wednesday, two days after he made those comments, he received an email from the Background Investigation Bureau, a Huntersville-based company that Chatham County Schools uses for background checks of school employees and volunteers.
“It seemed very suspicious that all of this occurred in the same couple of days,” Globuschutz told the News + Record.
This football season, which began in August, marks Globuschutz’s third as a volunteer coach with J-M. This season he has helped the team since August 1, which included pre-season fall practices.
The district says all school employees and volunteers must pass seasonal background checks. Globuschutz said he was unaware background checks were a seasonal process and maintains the timing of the request was “suspicious,” given this is the fifth week of the football season.
Globuschutz says he then had a phone conversation with Jordan-Matthews Principal April Burko and Athletic Director Josh Harris on Thursday. In the conversation, he said he was informed that he was no longer allowed to attend practices or games as a coach.
He said he explicitly asked Burko during the phone conversation if this move was done in retaliation to his appearance at the board meeting; he said Burko avoided the question. He then issued a press release to the News + Record and on his campaign Facebook page.
“It is a shame that the Chatham County School Board has once again decided to put politics above the best interests of school children and athletes,” he said in the statement.
But Chatham County Schools’ explanation for Globuschutz’s temporary ban indicates it was unrelated to the candidate’s remarks at the school board meeting.
According to Chatham County Schools Public Information Officer Nancy Wykle, the temporary pause on all volunteer coaches at Jordan-Matthews was wholly related to a clerical error. This year, Jordan-Matthews hired Burko as its new principal in July, and in the wake of the administrative turnover, there was a step missed in processing the paperwork for several coaches.
In addition to Globuschutz, four volunteer coaches and one instructional assistant at J-M were also temporarily prevented from volunteer duties due to the paperwork issue; of them, only Globuschutz spoke at last week’s school board meeting. The affected sports included football, boys soccer, cross country and cheerleading.
Coaches, including Globuschutz, were informed Friday afternoon that the appropriate documents would be sent in and, once approved, they would be allowed to return to normal coaching duties. The district said all applicants met the requirements for the pre-approval process, which allowed them to be expedited.
“We were unaware that and the other coaches had not been approved and worked with the school to expedite the approval process,” Wykle said. “For the record, the request was received and processed afternoon at 5 [p.m.], and as promised the school’s administration will be reaching out to you (coaches) shortly.”
All regular school volunteers must be approved by the school board on a seasonal basis, according to the district. Wykle said the issue was noticed on Wednesday during a standard periodical review of atheltics personnel by district administration.
Globuschutz learned on Saturday afternoon from Burko that he had been reinstated and was allowed to resume his coaching duties. He said, however, the response from the school and the district was inadequate and he still believes the move was done in retaliation to his comments.
“To be honest, I am happy knowing I can go back and spend time with the guys on the team,” Globuschutz told the News + Record after finding out he had been reinstated. “But I’m also concerned that I was possibly used as a pawn in small-town politics. I think it was a calculated move that didn’t go as planned.”
He called the reversal by the school and statements from the district “damage control.” He believes others were prevented from coaching to “save face” because it started with him.
The district apologized for the error, but said it would never retaliate against an individual.
“We had a principal transition at J-M and in that transition, the ball got dropped honestly,” Wykle told the News + Record. “The district would never retaliate against an individual, but we do have processes and protocols we have to follow and we had to make sure we were adhering to those correctly.”
Each of the six volunteers impacted by the error have been reinstated and have been allowed to resume their duties. They will each be formally recognized as volunteer coaches at JM at the next CCS Board of Education meeting on Monday, Oct. 10, at Chatham Grove Elementary School.
Wykle said at most, the coaches barred from their duties would have only needed to stay off the field for team activities Wednesday through Friday, before the district and JM realized the mistake and corrected action.
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