Mohawk volleyball coach out

SYCAMORE – By a 3-2 vote, the Mohawk Board of Education Monday night voted against renewing Eric Hoover as the varsity volleyball coach.

Board president Roger Luhring and members Todd Price and Doug Walton voted against renewing Hoover as the volleyball coach. Vice President Duane Coldiron and member Beth Margraf voted for keeping him.

Hoover just completed his ninth season, wherein he led the Warriors to their first Midland Athletic League crown and a second straight trip to the regional tournament. In 2011, he took Mohawk to a Final Four berth in the Division III state tournament.

“(I was) completely blindsided. I had no idea (this was coming),” Hoover said. “I don’t want to speculate what might be going on in other people’s heads. I had not been given a reason so I don’t know what to think until someone that makes decisions tells me what they were thinking.”

Walton said he voted over concerns with Hoover’s performance as a junior high and high school physical education and health teacher.

“For me, my vote was based on some of the situations with his teaching in the past like being late for work and students covering his class,” Walton said. “The other board members have different reasons.”

Attempts to reach Price and Luhring were unsuccessful.

Hoover’s last two teacher performance reviews, which were conducted in September 2011 and February 2012, reflected “meeting expectations” across the board with none of the red flags mentioned by Walton. The last time Hoover received anything other than “meeting expectations” was a decade ago.

Hoover said he hadn’t been approached about Walton’s concerns.

Superintendent Ken Ratliff said smaller concerns had been brought to Hoover’s attention but nothing that warranted something going in his personnel file.

“The principal talked to him about some concerns and he rectified them. That’s what we liked,” Ratliff said. “I recommended him, without reservation.”

Coldiron said the decision was simple for him.

“Well, he has an impeccable record and has the most successful record in the history of Mohawk,” Coldiron said. “The kids really like him and support him. He has gained a tremendous amount of respect and has grown the volleyball program.”

Evidence of that was the student organized sit-in that happened Tuesday morning.

Ratliff said students’ actions reflect what he has heard from the community.

“I anticipated some backlash from community members. They get some say. The board members get elected and they are (the community’s) liaison,” Ratliff said. “They expect board members to represent their position at times and so I suspect that board members are going to feel some of this pressure to reconsider their position.

“I won’t speak for whether they will or not but I will tell you I have thoughtful board members that will listen and be thoughtful and will listen (to what) people have to say.”

Calls to Margraf were not returned.

Athletic Director Erik Baker said his coaching evaluation for Hoover this year was all positive.

“I was (surprised by the board decision),” Baker said. “There was nothing I would consider a red flag (in his last coaching evaluation). He puts a tremendous amount of time into his preparation and his evaluation process. He’s always been above board in bringing in neutral people to evaluate talent to put the girls in a great position and I didn’t see any of that changing.”

Baker recommended Hoover for the job again this fall, a decision Mohawk High School Principal Brett Graham and Ratliff both supported.

“We won the league and won the regional and to my knowledge, there was not anything beyond what was going on on the court that would have warranted me not recommending him,” Baker said.

Hoover said he’s still interested in the job and would take it if offered.

“At the latest, this will be revisited at the next board meeting. I think there’s community members who are pressing for a special meeting so this issue can be heard,” Ratliff said. “All I’ve heard (from people so far) is displeasure in the decision. A very common theme has been that ‘We want the board to reconsider this and what does it take to have a special meeting?’ What I’m doing in the meantime is making the board aware of what people’s positions are, also trying to clarify their role in this. I want them to be careful about taking positions that haven’t been put forth by the administration because what they might find is we don’t have anything to give them to support that position if they do it on their own.”

Staff writer Nicole Walby contributed to the story.