Another Dilemma For School Board

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Whew: Another meeting dominated by coaches’ salaries. This time, the Payson High School athletic director asked the school board to adjust the stipends for coaches so that a teacher/coach who needs help can essentially give part of his salary to an assistant coach.

Alas: The district’s budget triage continues — thanks to the failure of the state to adequately support schools. Given the amount of time teachers spend supporting extracurricular activities like band, coaching and drama — it’s sad and demeaning to dicker about dividing up the already inadequate stipends. But with rising class sizes, expensive curriculum needs, the lack of advanced classes and the urgent need to raise student test scores — the board has eliminated budget support for extracurricular programs.

Fortunately, parents and generous community members have kept those programs going with rising fees and donations to vital programs like Credit for Kids.

Last week the board managed to sound almost Solomon-like when asked to divide the baby. The district’s harried business manager objected that after finally adopting a salary schedule systematizing the stipends — the district’s auditors will object if coaches that share their money get paid less than the stipend total on the salary schedule. The superintendent worried about whether relying on volunteer coaches would provide the necessary accountability.

So the board split the difference — without actually cutting the baby in two. After an interesting discussion, the board set a maximum stipend — which ought to please the auditors. But they also made it possible for a coach to get a much-needed assistant by cutting his own pay, since the salary schedule won’t specify a minimum stipend.

Hopefully, this juggle will preserve the flexibility and community support that has long distinguished this community’s relationship with its schools.

But don’t be fooled: Only convincing the state Legislature to adequately support our schools will solve the problem — and enable this state to resume economically sound growth.

In the meantime, Solomon will have to juggle knives like crazy.

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