Pickerington cheerleaders demand coach be fired

A group of Pickerington High School North cheerleaders and their parents are demanding that the district take actions to fire coach Carla Fultz.

Wearing T-shirts or badges depicting a slash through Fultz’s name, the angry parents and daughters filled the first several rows at the July 21 school board meeting.

Accusations against Fultz included alleged drinking on the job, allegedly endangering students with risky stunts and bullying the girls, parents said.  

Fultz declined to comment at this time.

"… before I blame her (Fultz) totally I must put a great deal of the blame on the school system for allowing her full reign to the program with no boundaries," parent Nadia Howard wrote to the board.  

Outnumbering the anti-Fultz group, however, were those in support of the coach. Several alleged that the girls and their parents fabricated tales of abuse after not receiving special treatment.

"I think they made it up," said Kristen Furlong, a cheerleader from the class of 2006. "Someone didn’t get their way and made allegations that would ruin a career and an amazing program. She’s the best coach in Ohio if you ask me."

Parent and physical therapist Linda Harrison disagreed, claiming her daughter suffered from "over-use syndrome" in her wrists, lower back, ankles and hips due to long practices without a sufficient strengthening program.

"Coach Fultz demanded a doctor’s excuse for all missed practices even if the child had a cold or flu," Harrison said. "My daughter was diagnosed with mononucleosis and was weak and fatigued for several weeks (over eight weeks). (She) performed at the Aladdin Shrine competition and almost passed out due to the exertion of her performing the higher level gymnastics and dance in the competition and she was afraid to confide in Coach Fultz regarding her continued illness in fear of being yelled at in front of her fellow athletes."

The alleged alcohol consumption occurred while the team visited Disney World for the national championships.  

Ashley Earhart, who graduated from North this past spring, said she finds it ridiculous that these stories reached the level of the board. Fultz, who also teaches chemistry and serves as an adviser for the National Honor Society, always placed a priority on the welfare of her students, Earhart said.

Fultz has taught for 22 years, 16 of which in Pickerington. For the past six years, she has also served as president of the teachers’ association.

"She would help if you had a difficult problem in school or with a life lesson," Earhart said. "It was a lot easier after I graduated to realize how much she helped."

Earhart said Fultz wanted the cheerleaders to enjoy the same respect as other athletes.

Assistant coach Sheree Wright also attended the board meeting. She said it "breaks my heart (to see some of the cheerleaders attack Fultz) after all she has done for them."

Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia told the crowd she has "not yet interviewed enough people to ascertain (the facts)" but she is conducting "due diligence" to get answers. Anyone with information regarding the investigation is asked to contact Mantia at 833-2110.

Other news

• The board voted to replace the carpets at Ridgeview Junior High and Pickerington High School Central at an estimated cost of $233,922.  The funds were included in the most recent bond issue.

• Funds also were approved for repairing Central’s roof and North’s track.

• Although the board would not avow any details, litigation may occur in regards to the relatively new track at North requiring repairs, Board President Wes Monhollen said.

• Mantia announced Cindi Goldhaber would leave her position as 12th grade principal at Hilliard Davidson to become principal at Pickerington High School North.

A special reception for the public to welcome Goldhaber and all the district’s new administrators will be held at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 11 in the Heritage Elementary cafeteria.

• On Aug. 4, the district will unveil its new Web site, which by Aug. 11 (for grades 5-12) will enable parents to check their children’s grades online. Grades fourth and younger should be online soon as well, Mantia said.

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