Alamance-Burlington school officials are still a few weeks away from unveiling their county budget request for the next fiscal year, but at least one top ABSS administrator is suggesting that the county budget request should include an increase in the athletic coaching supplement.
This comes after ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler announced November 30 a hiring freeze on all non-teaching positions due to what he and other school officials describe as an “unprecedented financial crisis.”
ABSS chief academic officer Revonda Johnson told school board members during their latest meeting that an increase in the coaching supplement should be considered to prevent coaches from leaving (or never coming to) ABSS in order to work for other school systems that offer higher supplements to their athletic coaches.
While she didn’t put a dollar figure on how much the coaching supplements should be increased, Johnson told the board that the gap between what ABSS pays and what other school systems offer their coaches is thousands.
The chief academic officer told school board members last week, “You can go right next door and make $7,000, $8,000, $9,000 as a coach.”
She focused on coaching supplements that ABSS offers for fall sports without giving a breakdown of coaching supplement for spring sports (see accompanying chart).
For fall sports, the lowest supplement for a high school coach currently totals $505 (for weightlifting) to a highest possible maximum supplement is $4,495 (for a head football coach), based on the figures that Johnson presented to school board members.
At the middle school level, the lowest supplement for a coach totals $663 (for an assistant cross country coach) to a highest maximum supplement of $2,133 (for a cheerleading coach).
Johnson pointed out during her presentation that ABSS athletic coaches take on a myriad of duties in addition to their full-time teaching jobs.
For those coaches who are also employed as teachers, in addition to their athletic coaching supplements, they receive a county-funded teaching supplement, which currently ranges from approximately 11 to 13 percent of their state-funded salaries.
School board vice chairman Donna Westbrooks said, referring to the coaching supplement, “That’s not a monthly thing; this is a season amount – one check, one time.”
“And they’ll tax it,” Johnson added, “so they really don’t get that much.”
Johnson told the board she worries that ABSS won’t be able to fill coaching positions as older, seasoned coaches retire.
“How many younger people are going to want to do it?” the chief academic officer asked rhetorically. “I know we’re broke, broke, broke, but whenever we can, I hope we can, I hope we can start becoming competitive because I know that athletics changes lives. This is what a lot of [students] live for. Honestly, you only have 13 years to be a child [from the time you enter school and graduate high school]. I hope we can start funding, so that during that 13 years, kids can have a really good time.”
The school board had budgeted $180,000 from the county-funded portion of its budget for the current fiscal year in order to provide a $400 increase in the supplement, which some said hadn’t been increased in 20 years, for all ABSS athletic coaches.
[Story continues below chart on coaching supplements.]
If Butler ultimately includes an increase in the teaching supplement in his county budget proposal for the next fiscal year, this would mark the second consecutive year in which ABSS has raised supplements for its athletic coaches, providing the school board approves the county budget proposal and Alamance County’s commissioners agree to fund it.
School board member Chuck Marsh asked last week whether it would be possible for local businesses to contribute funding to help increase the coaching supplement.
School board attorney said Adam Mitchell said, “Obviously, businesses can give donations to the school system…for a specific purpose” but they are discouraged from doing so for recurring expenses such as personnel. Booster clubs can also work with the schools to provide financial support, the attorney said.
The chief academic officer also briefed school board members about the athletic participation rates for middle and high school students last week (see chart).
[Story continues below chart.]
At the high school level, a total of 1,195 students participated in fall sports, which represented about 16 percent of the total of 7,330 students enrolled in the seven ABSS high schools at the end of the first month of the 2023-24 school year.
At the middle school level, a total of 596 students participated in fall sports, which represented about 12 percent of the total of 4,979 students enrolled in the seven ABSS middle schools at the end of the first month of the current school year.
Johnson attributed the low athletic participation rates at some schools – such as Graham High School – to what she characterized as “untapped potential.”
“In order to have strong programs for high school, you need to have strong participation in middle school,” the chief academic officer told the board. One of the things that she and other school officials are doing to boost participation rates is talking to principals and athletic directors about what they’re doing to recruit student athletes.
“Sometimes,” Johnson said, “it’s just going up to somebody and giving them a little push.”
The participation rates that Johnson outlined last week revealed that three middle schools (Broadview, Graham, and Turrentine) didn’t have enough athletes to have a team in two sports (cross country and softball). Several high schools also didn’t have enough athletes to have a team in cross country, golf, and tennis.
Three out of seven locally-funded trainer positions filled since July 1
Meanwhile, Johnson told school board members last week that, to date, ABSS has hired three high school athletic trainers, who are based at Western, Williams, and Southern high schools.
The board had set aside $514,965 in county funding for the current, 2023-24 fiscal year to hire seven high school athletic trainers, which work directly with athletes to prevent and treat sports-related injuries.
ABSS contracted with Stewart Physical Therapy in Burlington to help fill those positions, Johnson recalled last week. “Stewart Physical Therapy has placed ads in all types of medical journals,” she said. And Todd Davis, who took over as athletics director for ABSS last fall, has placed ads through the N.C. High School Athletics Association, she said.
School board members are currently scheduled to hold a public hearing on a county budget request for the 2024-25 fiscal year on February 26.