Creatine at heart of turmoil at Hillsboro High
Of the Suburban Journals
Jefferson County Journal
Sunday, Apr. 02 2006
Accusations and controversy surround recent decisions by the Hillsboro R-3 Board of Education regarding the future employment of the high school football coach, principal and assistant principal.
The accusations involve violations of the state's Sunshine Law by four school board members and the use of nutritional supplements by football players.
Superintendent Randy Charles says the turmoil started two months ago when the school board voted to open the position of head football coach at the high school. According to Charles, current head coach Mike Genge was told he could reapply for the job if he so desired.
"That's what set off the reaction around the community," Charles said.
School records show that four members of the seven-member school board voted to open the football coaching position, Jason Law, Rich Sanders, Bo Harrison, and George Engelbach. That vote came despite the fact that Charles, high school Principal Cheryl Aylesworth, and Athletic Director Mark Groner all recommended that Genge be retained as head football coach. Genge also teaches social studies and is the head track coach at the high school.
Rumors have been flying around the district that discord with Genge began when Engelbach discovered the use of creatine by football players. Creatine is a common nutritional supplement that can speed muscle growth.
Hillsboro schools have no formal policy on the use of nutritional supplements. Although creatine is not illegal, it is banned by the Missouri High School Activities Association, and Engelbach reportedly accused Genge of condoning its use.
When Groner was asked if there were any truth to the accusations he would only say, "There have been a lot of issues and allegations brought forward, and I don't feel comfortable commenting on any of it."
The volatile situation was further exacerbated at the March 20 school board meeting when Law, Sanders, Harrison and Engelbach voted not to renew the contract of Aylesworth, which expires at the end of this school year. The board also voted not to renew the contract of high school Assistant Principal Al Boulicault.
Charles said he could not comment on reasons as to why Aylesworth would not be retained as high school principal.
Some district patrons have leveled accusations against Law, Sanders, Harrison and Engelbach, saying they have been seen around town discussing school district business in violation of the state's Sunshine Law governing meetings of public boards. The law states that members of such boards may meet socially but may not discuss business that might come before the board.
Beth Petry, the mother of a Hillsboro football player, said the controversy started as a football issue but has become a community issue and she is worried it will hurt the morale of teachers and other district employees.
Petry found the voting at the March meeting to be suspicious. She pointed out that during the meeting, several issues were postponed during open session because certain members of the board were not in attendance; however, during a closed session, important votes concerning personnel were not postponed.
Mark Winchester, the father of two Hillsboro student athletes, said parents should decide the issue of supplements, not the school board.
"There are steroids, which are illegal, and then there are certain supplements that are not," Winchester said. "I take supplements, my wife takes supplements. They give supplements to pregnant women and older people. The issue of supplements should be decided between the parents and the student athlete. We
don't need the school board to regulate something that is not illegal."
Meanwhile, Genge, Aylesworth and Boulicault have retained the services of prominent St. Louis defense attorney Chet Pleban. In a letter sent to the Hillsboro School Board on Monday, Pleban demands that the school board retract statements made that his clients support the use of supplements on school property, and that the vote not to renew their contracts be set aside.
"There was a suggestion that my clients condoned the use of supplements and the fact of the matter is that these folks wanted the school board to implement a policy on supplements," Pleban said. "If the board would have acted to ban supplements it would have taken the issue out of the gray area, but for some reason they don't seem to want to do that."
Pleban said the whole controversy surrounding Genge and his supporters revolves around attempts by certain board members to hire a new football coach of their choice.
"What's occurring here is maneuvering by certain board members to replace the current football coach with a person of their choice who seemingly isn't even qualified to hold that position," Pleban said. "The way they are doing that is by giving the boot to the current coach and the principal, who supports the football coach."
Numerous attempts to reach Law, Sanders, Harrison and Engelbach for comment were unsuccessful. School Board President Kevin Roberts was out of town and was unavailable for comment before press time.
Engelbach, 64, and Law are seeking re-election to the school board on Tuesday's ballot. Law could not be reached for comment regarding his reelection campaign.
Engelbach is also running as a Republican for Jefferson County Presiding Commissioner.
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