QUESTION: Has the Southern High School football coach been fired from both his school job (as a teacher), as well as his football coaching job, or only the latter?
ANSWER: The now-former Southern High School football coach, Walter Friedrich “Fritz” Hessenthaler, has only been fired from his coaching position, based on clarification of his employment status provided Wednesday morning by Alamance-Burlington superintendent Dr. Dain Butler.
Hessenthaler – known to many simply as “Coach Fritz” – was relieved of his coaching duties Friday afternoon, mere hours before the Patriots faced, and ultimately prevailed over, the Orange High School Panthers in the first round Class 3-A state playoffs Friday night.
Butler, however, confirmed for The Alamance News Wednesday morning that Hessenthaler was employed in two positions at Southern High School.
“He has been removed as the football coach,” Butler explained in a brief phone interview.
“The [coaching position] is an at-will employee; there are no appeal rights for that. The teaching role is what’s on the table.”
Hessenthaler remains suspended without pay from his teaching position as a weightlifting instructor at Southern High School, where he had also previously taught social studies. He was first identified in ABSS releases as a social studies teacher but, in fact, the superintendent confirmed that Hessenthaler is a weightlifting teacher.
A portion of state law that governs public school teacher contracts provides the right of due process for any licensed teacher who is suspended without pay.
State law gives public school teachers a 14-day window in which to appeal a disciplinary action, such as suspension without pay, to the school board. It is up to the board to decide whether it will accept the superintendent’s recommendation to dismiss, demote, or reinstate an employee, according to a state law that governs employment contracts for public school principals and teachers.
Hessenthaler, 53, began his career with ABSS as a teacher on August 6, 1999, based on information that the school system furnished in response to a public records request by The Alamance News. He had been employed as the head football coach at Southern since August 18, 2018. Hessenthaler was initially suspended with pay last Wednesday, November 1; he was subsequently transferred to an unpaid suspension last Friday, according to ABSS.
Hessenthaler’s annual salary for the teaching and coaching positions totaled $88,724.95, as of October 31, according to the school system’s payroll department. His pay includes: a $58,370, base annual state-funded salary for his teaching position; a county-funded teaching supplement of $7,879.95; and a $22,475 county-funded stipend for his football coaching duties.
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