Raises for everyone!
And more “everyones!”
That happy message spread through the Payson Unified School District this week, with word that the school board Monday approved a $35,000 boost in spending on stipends for coaches and other teachers who oversee extracurricular activities.
The action came after Payson High School Athletic Director Don Heizer presented a study suggesting Payson pays coaches much less than many comparable school districts.
Board member James Quinlan supported the boost. “It’s been way too long. Coaches are always last on the list.”
The school board agreed to pay the extra cost this year out of the $415,000 in federal forest fees the county schools office recently confirmed the district would receive. However, the district doesn’t expect to get the forest fees money next year — and board members stressed that the stipend increases will go away next year if supporters of the various programs and Credit for Kids donors don’t raise the extra money.
Board member Rory Huff asked, “Did you explain to your coaches this is a one-time deal based on the forest fees?”
“I certainly wish we could do it every year,” said Quinlan. “It’s a way of saying ‘thanks for doing what you do, although you’ll never get paid what you’re worth.’”
Huff — at least half joking — suggested, “With these stipends, I’d expect a couple of state championships.”
He spoke shortly after the baseball, softball, golf and track teams all made it into the semi-final rounds of the state championships, with golf No. 6 statewide and baseball and softball in the top four. Sprinter Morgan Chilson clinched two state titles.
Superintendent Ron Hitchcock said he hopes that parent groups and donors will raise the money each year to make the increases permanent. The district currently spends about $104,000 on stipends for coaches, and much less to provide extra pay for teachers who supervise other extracurricular activities. The new proposal would boost spending on coaches’ stipends to $139,000.
The board also approved similar stipend increases for the faculty members who supervise the band, the choir and the drama program.
The high school football coach will get the biggest stipend — $3,555 for the season, up from the current $2,388 — a 49 percent jump. By contrast, the group of six other rural Arizona schools of comparable size Heizer surveyed paid the head football coach an average of $3,607.
The board approved stipends for 36 positions. The 13 head coaches are mostly teachers who stay after school to work with the teams. Many of the assistant coaches and JV coaches are community members who help out. The board also approved the addition of at least seven assistant coaching positions.
Board president Barbara Underwood had qualms about adding so many coaches, especially since the district hasn’t yet received budget numbers from the state.
“I have some issues with the assistant coaches,” said Underwood. “It needs to be more tied to the numbers of students on the team.”
Heizer agreed it would be “unconscionable” to hire more coaches than needed, but also said most sports need more supervision than they’re getting at present. “It’s about safety and liability. If we’ve got just one coach at each site and we have an event happen, we’d have to shut everything down.”
Underwood persisted, “We’re not getting the full picture here.”
Under the existing schedule, the stipend for head coaches ranged from $1,179 for golf, which this year made the state playoffs, to $2,358 for all the other head coaching positions. The comparable schools paid between $2,818 for golf to $3,607. The new stipend range will boost golf to $2,585, with most of the head coaches getting $3,232.
The JV and assistant coaches will get a smaller, but still substantial boost. JV coaches generally will go from $1,888 to $2262 — a 20 percent raise. Assistant coaches will generally go from $1,179 to about $1,939 — an increase of 64 percent in most cases. The board also approved seven new assistant coaching positions. For instance, the number of football coaches will increase from four to six — and both baseball and softball will gain two new assistant coaches.
Heizer said that teams often need extra coaches to supervise athletes scattered across several playing fields during tournaments. Coaches also need a backup to take over in case they get ill or injured — which happened during the softball playoffs last weekend.
The coaches at Rim Country Middle School will also get a pay boost, although they’ll still be making less than coaches in comparable schools. The new stipend list will boost the stipend for the 16 middle school coaches from $944 to $1,294 — a 37 percent increase. However, comparable schools pay an average of $1,543.
The new stipend schedule for other teachers who supervise student activities — including band, student council, yearbook and drama — will generally rise 10 to 32 percent.
For instance, the stipend for the band director will rise from $1,888 to $2,500 — a 32 percent increase. The stipend for the yearbook advisor will go from about $1,300 to about $2,000. About 11 faculty members get stipends to supervise non-athletic extracurricular activities.