Select coaches in Catawba County Schools don't have a strong sense of job security they once held.
With a change in the school system's non-faculty coaching policy, people who aren't employed as faculty within a school or feeder district won't be top choice to fill coaching positions at the end of each school year or athletic season.
The new policy, which was approved in November by the Board of Education, states that principals must exhaust their efforts to hire a faculty coach from either their school or nearby schools by advertisements before allowing a non-faculty coach to lead a team.
CCS interim superintendent Glenn Barger said "there's more quality control" by allowing a faculty member to coach a team instead of hiring someone outside of the school system.
"It brings more control in terms of making sure the board feels comfortable with who's out there working with students," said Barger, adding before the policy was revised, the Board of Education didn't have input in who principals hired to coach students.
Board Chairwoman Joyce Spencer said the non-faculty coach policy was revised during the board's annual policy review with CCS attorney Crystal Davis.
"The decision was made that the revisions were needed," Spencer said.
"There is no problem. It is just a matter of review. The board's goal is to have individuals working with the athletic team and athletes who are already employed in an educational role in the school system."
Currently, CCS records show more than 80 coaches have non-faculty status. That number includes 20 coaches at St. Stephens High School and 14 at Bandys High School, followed by nine at Maiden High and eight at Fred T. Foard High School.
Bunker Hill High School principal Jeff Taylor said he does not feel the new policy will affect his school's athletics. According to CCS records, Bunker Hill has five non-faculty coaches.
"We've been fortunate to fill most of our needs with our faculty and working in conjunction with the middle school," Taylor said. "At the end of the season, we'll look and provide due diligence (to fill coaching positions). It's a year-to-year decision."
Non-faculty coach policy
According to the revised policy, when a coaching vacancy occurs at a school, a principal must obtain superintendent approval in order to hire a candidate who does not work at the school or its feeder district. CCS employees outside the school or its feeder district are eligible for the position, with superintendent approval.
If a principal exhausts due diligence and no coaching candidates are available within the school system, a principal may fill the coaching position with an outside candidate provided the superintendent and board provides approval and the following qualifications are met:
— Four years have passed since the coaching prospect graduated from high school;
— Due diligence is shown to fill the coaching position by seeking school district employees first;
— A recommendation form for the non-faculty coach;
— Drug test and criminal background check results;
— Proof that the prospect complies with the rules and regulations of the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
After the board's approval to hire the non-faculty coach, the individual must undergo mandatory training for board policies, procedures, state and federal laws and the state's athletic association rules and regulations.
The non-faculty coach cannot be employed or volunteer for more than a year or after the end of the school year, whichever comes first, unless the above qualifications are met annually by the principal's search and superintendent and board approval.
Even after the position is filled by a non-employee, the principal is asked to continue the search for a faculty coach and must provide documentation of efforts to the board by June 1 of each year.
Marty Curtis, current non-faculty head baseball coach for Bunker Hill, has coached for 39 years — 11 years were as a St. Stephens coach and 28 years were at Bunker Hill. Curtis, who retired as a teacher three years ago, accepts the Board of Education's revised coaching policy.
"I don't see how it's going to affect me at all," he said. "I haven't really given it any thought, and I haven't been told that it will affect me."
Curtis added that if something changes and he does lose his coaching career that he's had for almost 40 years, he'll "deal with it."
"Catawba County Schools principals have to abide by the policies," he said. "If it affects me, then that's just the way it is. I hope that doesn't happen. Until I am (contacted otherwise), I'll just go ahead and coach."
However, Fred T. Foard's varsity and junior varsity men's basketball head coach, Mike Hainrihar, thinks the non-faculty coach position should be on a "case-by-case basis."
"I understand (the policy), but I don't agree with it," said Hainrihar, a non-faculty coach. "I think it applies in some cases, but needs to be on a case-by-case basis. Some coaches are not attainable or available during the day and can't really keep the kids' best interests at heart.
I can be reached and go up and meet with kids and teachers."
Hainrihar is in his first year at Foard, as well as being a part of CCS.
He came to the system with 14 years of coaching experience. In addition, he said he knows what it's like to be a student athlete, as do most coaches.
"I think the policy has good intentions, but it needs to be open for more of a case-by-case basis," he said. "The position needs to go to the best candidate, period."
Hainrihar hopes he can continue to coach at Foard because, in the first year, he's built a respectable relationship with the students that he wants to continue.
"It'll be extremely disappointing (if I have to leave) because you build relationships with kids," he said. "You work hard to earn their respect, so they respect you. The kids work really hard, and we are starting to rebuild the program. The kids are what make the program, and I can see why someone would want to have the job."
St. Stephens head football coach Fred Whalen does not think the policy revision is a good idea, but doesn't think it's going to affect school teams.
"(The principals) wouldn't hire a non-faculty coach unless (they) had to," said Whalen, who teaches chemistry and physics at St. Stephens High School. "I wish we had more people at the school that would coach."
Since St. Stephens has the largest number of non-faculty coaches, according to CCS records, and four of those are Whalen's assistant football coaches, he doesn't think the school's list will include more faculty coaches.
"The issue is (St. Stephens) is a good place to work," he said. "We tend to see teachers not want to leave. Each year, we are lucky if we have a couple of positions open. Finding a coach who happens to teach that (open) subject is a challenge, as well. Our principal wants to hire the best teacher first, and if that person is a coach, that's an added bonus.
"I don't know that (the revised policy) is going to really change or lessen the number of non-faculty coaches," Whalen said. "You can always put a body in there, but can they really coach and do they know the sport?"
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