Public supports girls basketball coach at Covington BOE meeting


COVINGTON — A small crowd of parents, coaches and student athletes attended the Covington Exempted Village School District Board of Education Meeting held on Thursday, Dec. 15, offering their support for head girls high school basketball Coach Brandon Studebaker.

“What this young man’s going through now, I feel terrible,” longtime Covington athletics supporter Glen Hollopeter said.

“There are many people here tonight that are here to support him,” Hollopeter said. “If you don’t bring him back or don’t renew his contract, I think it will set us back even more.”

Studebaker has been out on leave since early November, after possibly violating the district’s policy regarding texting and social media communications between staff members and students.

“His current status is I have assigned him to home, which is similar to a paid administrative leave,” Covington Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Hoelzle said.

An investigation by the Miami County Sheriff’s Office cleared Studebaker of criminal charges, Dr. Hoelzle said, but the district is currently evaluating the severity of any possible policy violations.

“It’s hard for me to comment,” Hoelzle told community members at the meeting. “I understand people’s desire for information, and it’s not that I don’t want to provide that information to you.”

“A child’s well-being, a child’s safety, I believe that’s the number one job the board has hired me to do, and that’s always going to be my number one priority,” he said. “I believe it’s important to protect the privacy of students; I don’t know what else I am allowed to say, so I ‘m not going to comment much further.”

The policy in question can be seen on the district’s website at, under policies and bylaws. “It’s policy 3213, which you can look up,” Dr. Hoelzle said after the meeting. “We are still reviewing the extent, the volume, and the times of the policy violations.”

“There is a police report out there, and no criminal charges were filed,” Dr. Hoelzle said.

Several student athletes and community members spoke in support of Studebaker during the meeting, including two of his aunts who are also employees of the school district.

“Brandon was cleared,” Nikki Hatcher said. “During the time that Brandon was accused, Brandon was restricted from speaking with anyone who had to do with the school or school employees, which meant his aunt who works for the school and his sister-in-law, who works for the school. He spent almost eight weeks not communicating with his family when he needed us the most.”

“He was cleared of criminal charges,” Hatcher said. “He realizes he violated policy, and he accepts that, but the violation of that policy shouldn’t by any means warrant that he be terminated.”

No action was taken regarding the girls basketball program during Thursday’s meeting, although board members did adjourn their meeting into executive session to discuss Studebaker and another unrelated employment matter.

“Just so that everybody knows, there is no action being taken tonight in regards to the basketball program on the agenda,” Board President Lee Harmon said.

“Our policies are not up-to-date,” Hatcher said. “They are not clear, and they are not riding with the advances of social media, texting, and everything else it involves.”

“It’s vague, it’s outdated, and it needs to be completely re-written,” she said. “It needs to be precise, clear and consistent; it needs to be addressed with every single employee you have in the school system. They need to understand it, they need to sign for it and it needs to be put in their personnel file; then you don’t have this grey area anymore.”

A 2018 Covington graduate also spoke in support of Studebaker, who was her basketball coach.

“If this is over texting I can give you a perfect example,” she told board members. “My father passed away when I was young. One day I was having a really bad practice, and he had texted me because he knew it was my father’s death anniversary.”

“If that’s inappropriate, to me I just think that’s messed up,” she said.

Former Covington coach Trent Alexander also spoke in support of Studebaker. “Every single coach in this school is guilty of texting their kids,” Alexander said. “If you guys decide to terminate Brandon, or drag this out until his contract is up, then you need to terminate every coach that’s in Covington.”

“I don’t see that he did anything maliciously or wrong,” Hollopeter said. “He’s very heavily involved in this community. He’s on our fire department; he donates his time. He owns a business here in town and he’s well-respected for that, and his work ethic.”

Studebaker was not present at the meeting, and did not wish to comment afterward. “I think the community spoke for me,” he said. “My players and the community spoke for me; I don’t have anything else to say.”

In other business, board members went on to schedule their annual organizational meeting for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan 4, and approve board Vice President Mark Miller to serve as President Pro Tem.

Board members voted to accept the resignation of Junior High School Principal Courtney Downs as high school assistant track coach, and the changing of district employee Stephanie Robinson’s title to assistant to the board and treasurer.

The board also approved a $7,100 contract with Ritter Company to install a new water line at the for watering the district’s practice football field.

Board members adjourned their meeting to go into an executive session. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, in the district’s K-8 media center.

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