St. Mary Parish School Board battles over coach issue
CENTERVILLE, La. — It took four tries and spurred accusations of board member coercion, but the St. Mary Parish School Board passed the rule allowing assistant principals to coach athletics at their own schools during Thursday’s meeting.
On six votes, and a nearly perfect east-west split, assistant principals will be allowed to coach at their own schools under several conditions:
—Verified lack of sufficient faculty coaches at the school as confirmed by the parish athletic director.
—Can be assistant coach for no more than two sports during the school year.
—Coaching duties may not begin until 3 p.m. on school days or until regular administrative duties are complete.
—Must be approved by both the school principal and the parish superintendent.
Ed Payton of Baldwin, who voted against the measure in February when it failed on another 6-5 vote, brought the topic back before the board.
“After talking to a number of people … I don’t feel this is going to be a disadvantage,” Payton said, explaining his change of heart.
Numerous board members weighed in on the matter, which was discussed for 25 minutes before a vote.
“I’m disappointed in Mr. Payton, as a fellow educator, telling me academics are not as important as coaching,” Roland Verrett, of Amelia, said.
He called it “political payback,” and said he is “critical of any board member or principal who buys into this.”
Mike Taylor of Berwick said he doesn’t believe assistant principals should be allowed to coach at any school.
“It diminishes their position,” he said.
Taylor asked whether the lack of coaches would be addressed under the parish’s policy manual, which adheres to LHSAA guidelines as to how many coaches are needed for each sport. Most schools, he said, are over that allotment because of extra non-faculty coaches hired with school or athletic booster funds.
Lenny Armatto, parish athletic director, said this morning that LHSAA sets the number of non-faculty coaches that schools are able to have employed. In the Gold Book, the parish’s handbook, it states how many are allowed to be at the schools based on their enrollment.
He said he would certify the need based on either the principal not being able to find a coach for a particular sport or via the contracts for coaches that are turned in during August.
He said the rule is effective immediately.
“If the principal wants to use an assistant principal they can, but usually they’ll hire somebody, a non-faculty coach,” Armatto said.
Ginger Griffin, board member from Patterson, said “It disappoints me that this board puts this much emphasis on athletics … what I’m hearing is this is being done for one person.”
Bill McCarty of Morgan City, the originator of the rule who brought it before the board the previous three times, said academics are what schools are built upon but said that athletics are important too.
“There are a lot of kids who could give a flip about academics but are kept in line by athletics,” McCarty said.
Marilyn LaSalle of Patterson referred to a previous meeting in which the board was told the principals of all parish junior high and high schools voted 8-4 in favor of offering the measure. There are only 11 public junior high and high schools in St. Mary Parish.
She said she wanted the list of who’s for and who’s against it on the record, adding that she did not want to hear of a principal being “strong armed” in order to allow his or her assistant principal to coach. The list has not been made public.
“It’s gonna pass,” she said “but you guys didn’t think this out.”
Mary Lockley of Franklin said she takes offense to other board members saying she was coerced into voting for the rule, adding that she has brought up the idea previously.
“Academics are primary, but all work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” she said.
Board President Murphy Pontiff of Franklin noted that because of changes in regulations electives are drying up and asked Superintendent Donald Aguillard to verify that the parish’s offerings have decreased in that area.
“Yes, but I don’t know how that relates,” Aguillard said.
The policy passed on the votes of Lockley, Payton, Pontiff, McCarty, Joseph Foulcard of Franklin and Wayne Deslatte of Centerville.
In other action Thursday, the board:
—Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Vermilion Parish School Board to join the District Cooperative of Louisiana in an effort to allow districts to come together to share resources such as bidding together on computer purchases to obtain better prices. It will cost the district $2,000 annually to be a member.
—Approved the purchase of about 200 computers and more servers to upgrade the wide area network offerings with $200,000 of money previously designated for this purpose.
—Approved a building and contents insurance renewal at a cost of $1.2 million with AmRisc Facility.
—Equipment breakdown insurance also was purchased for $11,380 from Zurich.
—Purchased workers’ compensation coverage for $78,140 and retained the services of RiskWise for safety and loss prevention at $9,000, which is a flat rate renewal.
—Approved bids for a double classroom building at Berwick High from Vanguard Modular Building Systems for $57,650 and for Morgan City High band uniforms from Stansbury Uniforms for $39,762.