Alamance-Burlington school board members heard Monday night from 10 ABSS athletic directors and coaches, who urged them to raise a coaching “stipend” that they say is far below what other school systems pay and hasn’t been increased since the former city and county school systems merged in 1996.
ABSS officials have previously told The Alamance News that the “stipend,” which coaches typically receive on top of their state-funded salaries, varies by season and sport.
The school board’s meeting room overflowed its capacity Monday night, between the ABSS coaches who turned out to ask for an increase in their stipend and other community members who urged the appointment a runner-up in last year’s school board race to serve out the remaining term of school board member Patsy Simpson, who has announced her intention to step on May 22 (see related story).
Patrick Stokes, who is the head football coach at Williams High School, told school board members during the public comments portion of their meeting, “I’m here, honestly, because [of] the direct ties to our county, and I’m not sure when that’s going to end, in terms of is this a sustainable model for the future.” He also indicated that, due to stagnation in the coaching stipend, “it’s getting more and more difficult to recruit quality people and quality educators.”
Stokes and several of his colleagues pointed out to the board that most ABSS coaches wear multiple hats: in addition to coaching athletes, they usually teach classes and fill a variety of other roles that many people are unaware of – from washing uniforms to mowing athletic fields.
Kyle Ward, who is the athletic director at Graham High School, said coaches “do fundraisers to help athletes raise money for things they may not be able to afford [and] most also lose valuable time with their families.”
Ward told the board that some school systems pay starting coaches a stipend of up to $5,865 per season, while the stipend for ABSS coaches starts at $1,575 per season.
Eastern High School athletic director John Kirby, who said he’s been a coach and teacher for ABSS for 38 years, said the coaching stipend stops at 15 years, after which no coach is eligible for an increase, regardless of years of experience. “We’ve got to get our voice out
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there, because we’ve been ignored for 20-some years. “ Kirby added that, if the $200 increase that the school system’s administration had originally proposed is actually awarded, he would be making $21 more (for a coaching stipend) than a starting coach with the Wake County public school system makes.
Cummings High School track coach Donald Davis – whose said his athletes have won 30 state championships in his 36 years at Cummings – said the track program provides “life-changing opportunities” for students, such as 60 of his athletes who received scholarships to attend college.
Davis said he had researched the coaching stipends that other North Carolina public school systems offer and found that, on the high end, other track coaches get a $10,000 stipend, and assistant coaches get $5,000 per season.
By comparison, Davis said his stipend is $680 per season for indoor track and $1,200 for outdoor track. “It seems the more successful you are…the less [you make],” he said. “That’s not logical. I can go anywhere and coach, but I choose Alamance County.
School board members subsequently voted 7-0, following a motion by Simpson, to double the increase in the coaching stipend that had been originally proposed by the school system’s administrators, from $200 to $400 per coach. As a result, the total cost to increase the coaching stipend by $400 totals $180,000 and is included in the county budget request for ABSS for the upcoming, 2023-24 fiscal year.
All seven school board members subsequently rose to their feet and gave the coaches a standing ovation Monday night.
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Board approves $54M county budget request
The board later voted 7-0 to approve a $54,122,116 county budget request for the next fiscal year that begins July 1 (see accompanying chart). ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler said he would submit to Alamance County manager Heidi York later this week.
The county budget request for ABSS for the 2023-24 fiscal year includes $2,014,832 in “continuation items”; $1,994,965 for three new funding priorities; and $3.3 million in annual capital funding for building maintenance. Those amounts, if approved, would be on top of the $50.9 million that the commissioners allocated to ABSS for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
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If approved by Alamance County’s commissioners later this spring, the county’s funding levels for ABSS would increase overall by about $3.2 million or 6.3 percent in 2023-24, based on figures that the school system’s chief finance officer Kim McVey presented Monday night.
The commissioners typically set their funding levels and adopt a county budget ordinance by late June each year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.