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School tries to comply with mandate to pay some coaches hourly wages
at North Crawford
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Interpreting and applying portions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act may present some challenges to school districts, like North Crawford and others that use non-staff members as athletic coaches.

North Crawford School District Administrator Dan Davies broached the subject with the school board at their meeting last Thursday. Davies brought the subject up as part of his report on needed revisions to a coaches’ handbook. Language was added that all coaching assignments will be for one year and that the priority will be to give coaching assignments to professional salaried employees of the district i.e. teachers, administrators, etc.

Davies explained this change for the district was a response to the need to begin paying an hourly wage to anyone who coaches athletics or supervises other extracurricular activities and is not a salaried professional in the district.

The district’s contracted attorney Eileen Brownlee clarified the situation for the district recently. If the salaried professionals, mainly teachers, coach a sport they can be paid a stipend or set fee for the season. That amount is currently set at $2,367 to $2,745 for high school head coaches with lower amounts paid to assistant coaches and junior high coaches. Under the current interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, if the coach is a salaried professional employee of the district they are exempt from the standards and this remains an acceptable practice, according to the attorney. However, paying a coaching stipend to the non-professional hourly employees of the district or to individuals who are not under contract to the district is not acceptable, according to what Brownlee told Davies in a phone conversation earlier this month.

The district administrator informed the board that this year on Brownlee’s advice all of the non-staff coaches will have to record the hours worked and submit them for payment. The district intends to pay the minimum wage or $7.25 per hour. Despite the low hourly rate, Davies is concerned that the amount paid could exceed the amount of the stipends in some cases.

Davies told the board he felt the change in requiring coaches, who were not employed as salaried professional staff members of the district, to record their hours was the prudent course of action given the advice of the district’s contracted attorney. Furthermore, he urged the board to change the coaches’ handbook to prioritize trying to hire salaried professional staff for open coaching positions in the future.

However, not everyone present at the meeting agreed with Davies’ position. Vickie Stevenson, a district resident and parent, said there were other ways to approach the situation, which would not require paying hourly wages to the non-staff coaches. She urged the board to take a larger view and noted perhaps the counsel for the school district was wrong in her opinion of the situation.

Davies noted Brownlee had just concluded putting on a law seminar for school districts facing the Fair Labor Standards Act impact on the need to pay hourly wages to non-staff and nonprofessional hourly staff coaches. The administrator added that he suspected the information was accurate.

Stevenson cautioned the board to be careful in taking just one opinion on the matter. She said there were four criteria to consider in the situation of the need to pay hourly wages and the previous discussion fit just one of those criteria. She said she would gladly forward more information on the subject.

Of the language being changed in the handbook concerning prioritizing hiring salaried professional staff and making all coaching assignments for one-year terms, Davies said the district would not make changes for this year, but it would give the district the “latitude to make changes.”

Contacted at her office on Monday, Brownlee acknowledged there might be some possibilities of paying certain coaches stipends based on their status as substitute teachers in the district.

However, the attorney was quite certain that support staff in the district paid hourly wages would not be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring hourly wages be paid and any resultant overtime be paid in a blended wage formula. The blended wage would be calculated by using the lower hourly coaching rate with the higher non-professional staff rate to form the base wage for calculating any overtime for hours in excess of 40 per week. This blended wage would form the basis of a time-and-a-half overtime wage.

Davies acknowledged that this year any coach who is not employed as a salaried professional by the school district will turn in a weekly record of hours and the district in turn will compensate them at the minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.

Immediately, this will apply to Mike Allbaugh, the longtime cross-country coach of both the boys and girls teams at North Crawford.

Will keeping track of hours result in greater or lower costs for the school district? Brownlee believes some coaches and extracurricular advisors will make less and some will make more by hourly calculations.

Some simple math work on the upcoming cross-country season showed some of the interesting situations that might occur. The 2014 cross-country season is 11 weeks long. It starts with the first practice on Monday, Aug. 18 and ends with the state meet on Saturday, Nov. 1. It might only be 10 weeks long, ending with the sectional meet held on Saturday, Oct. 25.

There are two stipend levels for head coaches at North Crawford a Step 1 Stipend of $2,367 and a Step 2 stipend of $2,745. At a rate of $7.25 per hour (minimum wage), a coach could work 327 hours or about 30 hours per week for the full 11-week season and not exceed the $2,367 Step 1 Stipend. At the same rate of $7.25 per hour, a coach could work 379 hours or about 34.5 hours per week for the full 11-week season without exceeding the Step 2 Stipend amount of $2,745.

So how many coaching hours are there in the cross-country season? There are 55 weekdays, including Labor Day Monday. There are 10 scheduled meets and there are also the sectional and state meets. Two-hour practices would make 110 hours of practice. However, there are seven meets and Labor Day among those 55 potential practice days, reducing the number of actual practice dates available to just 47. At two hours per practice, that’s 94 hours. At three hours per practice, it’s 141 hours. Some meets appear to take between three and four hours including travel time. Calculating them all at four hours including the home meet, that’s 40 hours. Then, there’s the sectional and state meets. If you figure 10 hours for each, it’s another 20 hours. At 12 hours each, it’s another 24 hours.

So, using three-hour practices and four hours for meets and 12 hours for both the sectional and state meet, the total comes to 205 hours. At the rate of $7.25 per hour, that’s  $1,486, which is well below the Step 1 Stipend of $2,367. Another way of looking at it, is there could be more than 120 coaching hours of wiggle room in the cross country program before the amount of the stipend is reached.

What about the basketball season? Allbaugh became the coach of the varsity girls team last season and showed some immediate successes. Analysis of practice time, number of games and travel time might be different for that sport. There are more weeks and more games.

Then, there’s the wrestling program. It’s a co-op team with Seneca coached by Eric Hady, who also does not work for the district.

In the spring, coaches in three of the four sports at North Crawford are not salaried, professional staff employed by the district. Only special education teacher Dave Bergum, the baseball coach, is a salaried professional teacher. In addition to Allbaugh, who coaches the boys track team, Ed Heisz coaches the girls track team. Melany Jelinek, a non-professional hourly employee of the district, coaches the softball team.

In Jelinek’s case, there will be a need to pay overtime combining her hours as paraprofessional with her hours as softball coach to create a blended rate to form the basis for time and-a-half overtime compensation for hours exceeding 40 per week.

Following a brief discussion of a few other changes to the handbooks the board approved the changes to the coaches handbooks as well as the middle/senior high school and elementary school handbooks, the teacher handbook and the co-curricular handbook.

 In other business, the North Crawford School Board:

• approved a resolution and transportation contract with Seneca for providing special education transportation services

• revised slightly the board goals for 2014-15

• received the resignations of bus drivers Susan Mueller and Keith Miller, as well as elementary school secretary Marla Randall and sign language interpreter Shawn Stone.

Following a closed session, the North Crawford School Board reconvened in open session and:

• hired Eryn Moon as school nurse

• hired Tina Volden as elementary school secretary

• hired Kim Little as a part-time substitute director of special education

• hired Eric Sime as a bus driver

• approved Anna Davidson as volleyball coach and Eryn Moon as assistant volleyball coach

• approved Brandon Munson as head coach of football and Mark Bender as assistant coach; Kyle Oldenburg as assistant coach; and Eric Matz as assistant coach.