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Group wants new method of hiring Washington Co. coaches

August 29, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Public Schools officials say they are willing to discuss the process of hiring coaches with a group of concerned parents who say the current system doesn't guarantee that the best candidate gets the job.

Jackie Brewer, spokeswoman for a citizens group called Better Sports Now Washington County, said the system needs to be changed -- possibly at the state level -- to ensure that the best coaches are hired.

The Washington County Public Schools system and state regulations require that school system employees get the first crack at coaching jobs. If no one wants the job, principals are permitted to hire coaches from the general public.

"I really think we're doing our kids and community a disservice," said Brewer, who said Better Sports Now has about 100 participants who communicate mainly via e-mail. The grass-roots group was formed last year with the stated mission of improving the quality of athletics in Washington County Public Schools.

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"I just don't think a certified teacher, 100 percent of the time, is the best coach," Brewer said. "I think it has to be on a case-by-case basis."

Brewer said she has a personal interest in the coaching issue because two of her children attend public school in Washington County. One of her daughters is in the soccer program at South Hagerstown High School, she said.

"Better Sports Now is not just for my children," Brewer said. "It's for all the kids."

A majority of the people who participate in Better Sports Now have children in Washington County Public Schools, Brewer said. The group has representatives from every high school in the county, she said.

Brewer suggested that qualified coaches could be found by soliciting résumés through advertising in the media.

But Wayne Ridenour, president of the Washington County Board of Education, said the process isn't that simple.

He said coaches must be hired based on the rules set by the Code of Maryland Regulations, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and the teachers' labor contract.

"We can't ignore them," Ridenour said. "If you don't follow their guidelines, they can put the hammer to you."

Ridenour said one of the penalties for failing to follow athletic association regulations could include being banned from playing in state tournaments.

The Code of Maryland Regulations states that members of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association "shall employ as coaches only teachers or certificated professional educator employees of the local board of education for a specific coaching assignment. If no acceptable and qualified coaches are available ... temporary emergency coaches may be employed."

The Code of Maryland Regulations defines "acceptable and qualified" this way:

o Head coaches should have three years of coaching experience.

o The experience should be sport-specific and at a scholastic level.

o Experience as a manager or an assistant coach may replace playing experience.

o The candidate should have playing experience at the high school or college level.

Ridenour said he is willing to talk to Better Sports Now members about the way coaches are hired. But, he said, "I don't know what we're going to get out of it."

Brewer said she is considering whether to take her quest to state officials.

"Every law can be improved," she said. "I want to see state law changed."

Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association guidelines say the regulations can be changed, but "proposed written amendments to these regulations must be submitted only by any MPSSAA member school, member system superintendent of schools, MPSSAA committee or the MPSSAA executive director."




School board divided on how to hire coaches



Members of the Washington County Board of Education have varying opinions on a proposal that at least one member says could reduce the school board's control over hiring coaches.

If the proposed policy change is approved during a school board meeting Tuesday, it would be the superintendent of schools who would develop administrative regulations for coaches. Those regulations would be carried out by staff at the Central Office and principals at the individual schools.

Board President Wayne Ridenour said he would support a change to diminish the school board's authority to hire coaches.

"The board shouldn't have to vote on hiring coaches any more than (it should have to vote on hiring) custodians," Ridenour said.

In April 2007, the school board voted 4-2 to change regulations so it could become more involved in the hiring process. Ridenour and board member Ruth Anne Callaham cast the dissenting votes.

Callaham said Thursday that the school board should let the superintendent's office oversee the coaching issue, and should get involved only when a problem occurs after a coach has been hired.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said principals should make decisions about hiring coaches.

"We want to have the best people in the jobs," Morgan said. "Principals should have autonomy."

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