The spring sports season was officially canceled on April 23 by the Minnesota State High School League, shortly after Governor Walz announced that school was to remain as distance learning for the rest of the school year.
Armed with that information, the Royalton School Board, minus the absent Chairman Randy Hackett, discussed that at Monday’s regular board meeting.
The discussion spawned off an action item to hire five coaches, two junior high baseball coaches, two varsity assistant track coaches and a head trap coach.
Vice Chairman Noel Guerard said, “We’re going to hire these people to not coach, on a season that’s been canceled, is that correct?”
That was affirmed by both Business Manager Dawn Duevel and superintendent John Phelps.
As part of the Board’s packet was a spreadsheet that included what other schools in the area are planning to do. The vast majority plan to pay their coaches in full.
“I kind of have a problem with this,” Guerard said. “That sheet we got what everyone else is doing. I took a marketing class, and that’s called the bandwagon technique. I’m not swayed by that I guess.”
Director Mary Lange and Clerk Ellie Holm agreed with Guerard.
“I think you can only get paid for what you do, and if these people have done some work, they absolutely need to get paid for it. But if they haven’t fulfilled their entire position, that shouldn’t count,” Lange said. “They have had no student contact, and part of coaching is having student contact.”
The Board then questioned whether or not it was in the coaches’ contracts, especially if they were teachers, that they must be paid their full coaching stipend.
“They were approved to be on contract, assuming the season was going to happen,” Duevel said. “Theoretically, since it is past practice, I’m not sure where we’d stand union-wise if we didn’t pay the teachers. It is definitely up for discussion.”
“This is an unprecedented situation, but it is past practice to pay our coaches because of schedule C on that bargaining agreement,” Duevel said.
“I wouldn’t expect to get paid for work I didn’t do,” Guerard said. “These are people who are modeling and teaching our core values for the district, and is that what we want?”
“I know that we’re going to be asking for a levy for the maximum allowable by law for property taxes pretty soon, and if we’re going to be spending it to hire people to not coach, that doesn’t add up with me,” Guerard said.
Director Mark Petron presented the possibility of prorating the pay, and Guerard agreed.
“I think it would be fair to pay them up to the date that the season was canceled,” Guerard said. “Once the season was canceled, I can’t imagine they put in a lot of effort to getting ready to coach.”
Phelps stated that the discussion was getting away from the topic, and it would be a point of order to do anything about the already hired spring coaches.
He stated that the Board would have to set a special meeting to discuss that topic. The item on Monday’s agenda was only for the five coaches that had not yet been hired.
“You’re trying to build character in these students, and if you’re in there trying to get paid for something you didn’t do, you’re not really setting the example for them,” Guerard said. “I hadn’t really thought of that, I was thinking more of what was fair to both the coaches and the taxpayers.”
Duevel mentioned that the coaches need to be paid by the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30. She also stated that the coaches have typically been paid on either the last check of May or the first in June depending on when their season ended.
Teacher and prom adviser, Jeremy Schaa did state that in cases like prom, which was canceled, 90% of the work takes place prior to the event.
“I think people need to tell us exactly what they’ve done this year to earn the money that they’re expecting,” Lange said.
Phelps stated that he believes that Activities Director Anthony Neumann could put together a list of what the coaches had done to present to the Board.
The Board defeated the hiring of the five coaches, 2-3, with Russ Gerads and Petron voting to hire the coaches and Guerard, Lange and Holm voting against.
No date was set for a special meeting.