Like angry villagers waving pitchforks, two dozen supporters of Julia Randall Elementary Principal Will Dunman demanded the Payson School Board drop a plan to prevent administrators from coaching or heading up other extracurricular activities.
“If you are telling an administrator who makes an impact that they must not be involved, that is wrong,” said Bobby Jo Haught, one of the parents who started the Payson High School softball program 28 years ago. “If you’re taking a teacher out of the classroom you have to pay for a substitute. There’s a lot of ramifications that must be considered (before voting on this policy).”
Ten parents spoke against the policy and praised Dunman for his work and lambasted the board for even considering the proposed policy. Some interrupted board members and even called members of the governing board “stupid.”
Superintendent Ron Hitchcock introduced the policy as part of a new salary schedule for extracurricular activities such as sports, but also for the drama, band, and choral directors, the student council sponsor, the yearbook sponsor, academic league and Career Technical School Organizer (CTSO) adviser.
“When we approved new job descriptions ... you must run a CTSO program,” said Hitchcock to introduce the new salary schedule and policy. “The CTSO adviser spends more time with clubs, goes to so many advisory meetings and competitions. They have been stipend positions, but we have the Perkins grant to pay for them.”
Hitchcock went on to say that in addition to the new salary, the other change included a policy that administrators could not act as a coach or director or get paid from the extracurricular salary schedule.
This confused board member Shirley Dye.
“We have had principals as coaches, why would they not get a stipend as a coach?” she asked.
“That is the discussion — can they get their job done?” said board member Jim Quinlan. “It hurts students and sometimes you get into tournaments that take all day.”
And what a discussion it was.
Kadie Tenney, Dunman’s assistant softball coach handed out letters from students whose lives had been changed by Coach Dunman.
“The second letter is from a student early on that came from a divorced family,” said Tenney, “Her mother was a drug addict ... her life would be completely different if she had not earned a scholarship to college with softball.”
Stacey Mars, parent of a former seventh-grade student, said for the first time ever her child was excited about her AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) test results.
“My seventh-grader going to eighth spent the entire summer to check on the mailbox ... she was so excited to see her academic achievement ... It is a shame to not have good role models on and off the field. There is the possibility you could lose someone with great talent,” said Mars.
From 2010 to 2012, Rim Country Middle School (RCMS) was labeled a D school by the Arizona Department of Education. Reforms that included doubling up on math and a mandatory homework helped the school improve its scores enough to reach a B this year.
“I’ve never had an administrator that came into my classroom and spoke to every student,” said RCMS math teacher Nicole Ward. “Mr. Dunman made sure they knew how their success was important to him ... I can’t say the coaching made him less than anything. He made me a much better teacher, thank you Mr. Dunman.”
PUSD Athletic Director Don Heizer said that the policy would make it even harder for Payson to find enough coaches.
“Right now we’re still looking for a head wrestling coach. We have advertised for a girls soccer coach and assistant coach. We have two volleyball coaching positions available,” he said. “There are not a lot of people out there to draw from.”
Most of the discussion focused on Dunman, who had a banner year. Not only did RCMS rise from a D to a B school, but the softball team he coached came within two wins of a state championship.
But Quinlan argued that he gave up the English department leadership position and a summer swimming coach position to become the head basketball coach.
“I chose to step down because I could not do justice to both jobs,” he said. “I tell my students, you can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything.”
As he spoke, members of the audience interrupted — telling him he was stupid and had no clue how to be an effective school board member.
In the end, the board voted to table the issue and directed Heizer to poll other districts like Payson and see if they had policies that did not allow administrators to take extracurricular positions.