Parents: More pay for county coaches

Published 1:42 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The spokespersons for a group of more than 50 people who attended a special Covington County Board of Education meeting Tuesday called on board members to quickly name a new coach at Straughn High School, and to raise coaching salaries to competitive levels.

Manish Patel, left, and Tony Newton, right, wait to speak to the county board of education.

Manish Patel, left, and Tony Newton, right, wait to speak to the county board of education.

The meeting was held only six hours after the Andalusia Board of Education hired long-time Straughn head football coach Trent Taylor, but parents were adamant that they want swift action.

“We want to come in line with our pay with Crenshaw County, in particular,” Tony Newton, who spoke for the group, said. “Our teachers make the same as Crenshaw County, our superintendent makes the same, and as far as we can tell, our board of education makes the same. But our coaches are dramatically underpaid compared to them.”

Newton gave as an example, “the largest supplement in Covington County for a coach is $7,500 plus some incentives of a few hundred dollars for longevity, but $8,500 max.”

“An assistant coach at Highland Home makes $12,000. That’s the assistant coach, not the head coach,” he said. “There is a huge discrepancy.”

He said the group wanted the issues addressed during an emergency meeting because they knew there was going to be a change in employment in the county.

“There’s still somebody who has to be hired,” Newton said. “That pay is going to determine the kind of candidate we get, whether we get a fresh guy out of high school or whether we get a good coach. We want somebody with experience; it’s something we find important.”

Organizers had asked the county board to meet last week.

Manish Patel, a 1991 Straughn grad and local attorney, spoke for a group of individuals concerned about the pay of the coaches in the county, and said they wanted to petition the board to rectify the gross inadequacies.

“What we expect our board to do is recognize that there is a problem, and take action to rectify that problem,” Patel said. “It is incumbent upon the board to provide the salary and supplement structure necessary to bring coaches into a competitive area with their peers.

“Failure to do so is a disservice to not only our coaches, but our children and our communities in this county,” he said.

Patel said the board has insulated itself from taking swift action through policies, procedures and protocols, and does not effectively communicate with employees within the system.

“This characteristic is both archaic and ineffective, and quite frankly we feel it’s unacceptable,” Patel said. “You need only look a mile or so from this spot at other organizations that are able to call a meeting to order in 24 hours as opposed to five days to convene and deliberate on certain issues.”

He said while the group gathered acknowledged that the board has led the school system to be financially strong, they also recognize that the board can and should be more responsible when presented with time-sensitive matters and a need for effective communication.

“We will not go quietly in the night, but rather we will keep this issue of the forefront,” he said. “We will continue this effort to bring about positive change. We will remember for some time to come how you respond to your constituency.

“This is about doing what is right, and doing it promptly,” he said.

Board president Jeff Bailey said the board would not put this issue “under the table or brush it aside,” and he said he believes they have not done that.

Bailey said when he was called to meet with concerned parents and citizens, he met with them the day that he was asked.

“We are responsive and we are going to look at this issue further,” Bailey said. “I made that promise, and I’m making that promise tonight. We have already begun to look and compare ourselves to other systems.”

Bailey said he would keep those assembled abreast of what is happening, but he could not set a deadline of when the salary issue would be addressed.

“Personally, this was a waste,” Tabitha Linzey said of the meeting. Her two sons are juniors at Straughn High School.

“We honestly feel like this is being swept under the rug,” Linzey said. “We had no clue any of this was going on all of these years. Had we known what we know now, we would have brought attention to the board.”

Board member John Thomasson said this issue all boils down to money.

“We would love to pay our coaches more, I wish we could and I know we will,” Thomasson said. “One of the biggest reasons we are not paying them more is because the money that we get in. We’re spending the money wisely.”

John Thomas, who serves as a sideline sports therapist for Straughn and whose sons play sports there, said good coaches are available now.

“It’s now when coaches lose a job or go somewhere else,” Thomas said. “To get that quality coach, you need to look now, not in March or April.”