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Departing coach rips oversight of athletics

SoVaNow.com / May 23, 2018
Former Bluestone head football coach Jesse Chropka challenged the Mecklenburg County School Board to rein in its athletic committee in light of actions that he says led to his resignation as head football coach.

Chropka, a geometry teacher at Bluestone High School, served as Bluestone’s head varsity football coach until he resigned in November under a swirl of controversy. He spoke about the matter at the end of the school board’s regular monthly meeting on Monday night.

Chropka’s comments included the announcement that he is departing the school division as a teacher and a coach.

As a matter of policy, Chropka said, no school board member should participate in a committee in which trustees’ children may be impacted, all committees should submit minutes for approval, and trustees should pledge to refrain from using their board position for personal gain or the gain of a family member.

Chropka prefaced his remarks saying, “I’m not here to pick a fight.” Then he laid out what he described as improper actions by the board’s athletic committee, saying members “failed to follow the chain of command” when they ordered the removal of the Barons head basketball coach, threatened the removal of Dan Powell, athletic director at Bluestone High School and threatened the removal of all three softball coaches. Those assertions could not be confirmed at press time.

Though he was not at Monday’s meeting, Dale Sturdifen, chairman of the athletic committee, said afterwards the athletic committee never threatened anyone or their job and it does not have that authority to do so. “There is no comment in response to our former football coach’s allegations. The focus should be on where we are with athletics today and the new school.”

As a result of direct or indirect decisions made by the athletic committee, Chropka said, several Baron coaches will not be returning, among them, cross country, football, boys and girls basketball, indoor and outdoor track and field, baseball, and softball. Chropka did not specify if he was speaking about head or assistant coaches and also did not indicate to the board that several of the positions he referenced — indoor and outdoor track and field and jayvee basketball — had been held by him prior to November of last year.

George Lancaster, the current girls head basketball coach at Bluestone, confirmed that he was not one of those said to be leaving the school, but he has applied for the job as new head boys basketball coach for the Barons. He was waiting to hear if he would be named to the job; trustees appointed him to the position by a vote Monday night.

Lancaster also said he was in talks with new head football coach Harry John about serving as an assistant for the football team. This past year Lancaster coached the linebackers. John was hired earlier this year to replace Chropka.

“We just hired a young dynamic football coach and we have a hall of fame basketball coach taking over our boys’ basketball program,” a reference to Lancaster, a veteran coach at Highland Springs High School before returning to the area. “It seems as though we’re going in a good direction now,” Sturdifen said.

John is a former All-State and USA South All-Conference player who came to Bluestone High School from Averett University in Danville, where he served as the offensive line coach and strength and conditioning coach.

Chropka encouraged trustees to read “the third-party complaint” filed against him and to add three new definitions to the policy manual governing conduct of school board members — conflict of interest, malfeasance and nepotism.

The definitions he offered were: nepotism — the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends; malfeasance — wrongdoing, especially by a public official; and conflict of interest — a situation in which a person in a position of power uses that position for personal benefit or the benefit of a family member.

Chropka did not, in his comments, discuss the specifics of the complaint and when asked by reporters from The Sun if he would make that information available said, “I am not permitted or have access to sharing the complaint. That is under the control of Mecklenburg County Public Schools.”

A petition circulated on social media near the end of the 2017 football season called for the dismissal of Chropka from his head coaching position. The petition, prompted by some of the players, parents, and supporters, listed several concerns, among them lack of discipline and institutional control over the program and its players, and lack of concern about the health and well-being of his players.

At the time, Chropka said he resigned in the face of the petition because he did not want the matter to overshadow the team or the school’s football program. Before taking on the role of head football coach, Chropka coached the jayvee boys’ basketball and track teams. None of the complaints raised against him involved those sports or athletes.

“I was not trying to create or cause any problems, just wanted to speak for those who could not speak for themselves for fear of retribution, ” Chropka said after the meeting. He left the door open for a possible return saying, “I would like to return to Mecklenburg County in the future, if possible.” Chropka did not say what his plans were once the current school year ends.

For his part, Sturdifen questioned the reason for Chropka’s comments, particularly as he gets ready to walk out the door.

“The primary job of an educator is the instructional piece, coaching is secondary. I wish coach Chropka the best in his future teaching and coaching opportunities,” he said.

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Comments

this has been going for years.thats why the athletic programs are not up to par with other schools.its about the kids not the adults.realize the talent your kids have or dont have and move on

Comments

This is typical Dale Sturdifen nonsense. He is the person creating the drama at Bluestone. Everyone is afraid of him as he likes to bully people.

Comments

Dale is a piece of crap. I wish he would have called him out by name. Dale has chased away so many teachers and is absolutely ridiculous. HHS is worse than Thornton was as far as being a bully. Hope you see this, Dale. About time someone calls you out.


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