Belgrade High School entrance

BELGRADE - The Activities Director for Belgrade High School has been placed on leave.

Superintendent Godfrey Saunders said Thursday that he couldn't comment on the employment status of the district's employees, citing the individual's privacy rights. However, Rick Phillips confirmed to Montana Right Now that he was put on leave on February 25, and he has not been allowed to enter the school's premises since that time.

It's unclear why Phillips has been placed on leave, a matter that he says he's unable to comment on. However, the athletic director does say that he has nothing to hide and hopes the situation can be rectified.

Phillips was an avid supporter of former Belgrade softball coach Mike Neuabauer, who was accused last year by parents of four players of bullying and mistreating his athletes. One of the parents is a member of the school board that was tasked with deciding Neubauer's employment status.

The accusations were a point of contention in the Belgrade community, with players, community members, and parents appearing on behalf of Neubauer at school board meetings and taking part in a letter-writing campaign supporting the head coach, which featured prominently in The Belgrade News. Phillips was the only administrative member to strongly recommend keeping Neubauer on as head coach. Ultimately, Neubauer quit in January. He continues to adamantly denying all allegations made against him.

A special school board meeting regarding Phillips' employment will be held on Tuesday, March 19 at 7 PM in the Belgrade Administration Board Room. The first part of the meeting is open to the public, but the portion of the meeting regarding Phillips' employment status may be closed to the public at the school board's discretion.

According to MontanaSports.com, Phillips is in his 10th year as the athletic director at Belgrade High School, and was named 2014's Montana Athletic Director of the Year. In January, he was awarded a Service Citation by the Montana High School Association (MHSA) for "significant contributions to the MHSA."

Phillips is also listed as the president of the Montana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), on MHSA's website.

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