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Non-renewal letters issued to coaches in Mason, Bracken Counties

Soccer Blade

With the future of sports in limbo, so are some coaching contracts for the next school year.

Upon recommendations and guidance regarding next school year’s athletic programs from the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, extra-pay letters of non-renewals have been sent in some school districts.

Mason County, Augusta Independent and Bracken County confirmed on Friday that letters have been sent to coaches in those counties, the letter stating that their contract of employment regarding extra-pay for coaching duties would not be renewed for the 2020-21 school year.

The language in each school district’s letter varies, Bracken County still agreeing to honor paying head coaches at this time.

“Assistant coaches were given a letter stating for the 2020-21 season that stipends would not be guaranteed if the season wasn’t played,” Bracken County Athletic Director Daniel Fisher said on Friday. “Everyone understands and we’re in this together. At this time our head coaches are safe and we know assistants are just as important, but financially as a school district this was a tough decision.”

Mason County distributed the letter to not just coaches, but every extra curricular and extra duty service. Stipends for coaching are usually set in place before the start of the school year, but due to the uncertainty of when sports will return with the KHSAA, some precautionary measures have been input with a possible financial budget crisis looming.

“The purpose was to protect the general fund from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With over one-third of Kentucky’s workforce laid off, we can expect large cuts from Frankfort,” Mason County Superintendent Rick Ross said. “A separate letter was also sent explaining that once we were sure a sport or activity was given the green light (by the governor), the sponsor or coach would be reinstated.”

Annual contracts typically run July 1-June 30 of the following year, meaning all current coaches are still under contract through June 30. All school districts confirmed that spring sports coaches were still paid despite the season being canceled.

“This safeguards us from something similar to what happened this spring,” Ross said.

Ross stated if fall sports are taking place starting in July, contracts will be issued and each season decided in similar manner.

“As a former coach, I know the jobs sometimes pay just a couple of dollars per hour given the amount of time they dedicate. Those who coach and sponsor activities are not in it for the money. That being said, we spend North of $300,000 per year on extra duty. State law requires notification by May 15 and an exemption for the circumstances was not granted.”

Lewis County, Fleming County, Robertson County and the St. Patrick school district have not issued such letters at this time, each school confirmed on Friday.

Robertson County and Fleming County for example have stated alternative options may be provided for students and coaches if seasons can’t be played where the coach would hold certain responsibilities for that respective sport and still honored with their contract for the 2020-21 school year.

“If nothing else, if they can’t coach, we can have them do other stuff with their athletes. Besides x’s and o’s, these coaches are very important to our students,” Robertson County superintendent Sanford Holbrook said.

While the letter is precautionary, beyond what goes on the court or field of play, coaches often serve as mentors or guardians or just a helping hand for the student-athlete.

“Not only coaches or teachers, we’re parents or guardians or watching over some of these kids,” Mason County Co-Athletic Director and boys’ basketball coach Brian Kirk said. “We’re calling kids, providing transportation, providing food, answering texts, phone calls to make sure they’re doing things they need to be doing. A lot of other times we’re counselors even without the certification. Kids need mentors to help them be successful. Plus there’s so much you learn through athletics and with your teammates. We want to ensure we provide those opportunities moving forward.”

Serving as one of the three athletic directors at the school, Kirk is aware of what the financial burden can be for each school district moving forward and hopes future sports won’t be affected like they were with the Sweet 16 and spring sports, the KHSAA canceling all those activities last month.

“Beyond wins and losses, sports play a huge role for these kids in a school building. You look at enrollment, grades, attendance…A lot of times these kids wake up with the inspiration to go to school is the fact after school they can go to practice and compete in a game or the band. A lot of that is huge factors how athletics play within school systems itself.

Other school districts across the state have also issued non-renewal letters, Laurel County for example rescinding them earlier this week after public backlash a few days later when they were issued last week.

“It’s a tough situation. You don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong right now so it’s hard to complain or be upset,” Augusta Athletic Director and boys’ basketball coach Jason Hinson said. “They issued these basically as a courtesy and formality. You just have to support your school district, there’s never been anything like this.”

The current KHSAA dead period remains in effect until May 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A statement from the KHSAA is expected soon regarding what to do for the month of June and moving forward.

The mandatory dead period KHSAA originally had in place for the calendar year was June 25-July 9, no official word has been released on if that will still be honored with the current dead period.

Fall sports would then begin on July 10, with the other fall sports holding their first practices on July 15.

Governor Andy Beshear has started to lift some restrictions as we enter the phases of reopening. Youth outdoor sports are allowed to begin June 15 with certain restrictions. KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett says the governor’s office goal, as far as the June 15 re-start for sports goes, is to only get baseball, softball and outdoor swimming going at that time.

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://maysville-online.com