ASHLAND -- Ashland City School District coaches and a few others will see their spring supplemental contracts cut by 50 percent.
Despite opposition from Ashland City Teachers Association (ACTA) president Melissa Baker, the district’s board of education unanimously passed a resolution Monday evening to pay only half the initially agreed upon amounts in spring 2020 supplemental contracts for coaches and others like the organizers of the May Fiesta.
The cut allows the district to save approximately $60,000 in the weeks following a $611,590 reduction in K-12 state foundation aid for the 2020 fiscal year, according to Superintendent Doug Marrah.
“I think 50 percent is fair,” Marrah said. “With the $612,000 reduction in our budget for this time of year, we’re talking in the neighborhood of $60,000 we would save, so all those things go together in terms of the right decision.”
School board members agreed. All voted in favor of the resolution, and two explained why.
“I’ve been hearing for the last two months when I watched the governor… and listened to business people in town, (and) I listened to our county commissioners cutting budgets,” school board member Mike Heimann said. “We’re in extraordinary times. I know that.”
It’s a time that calls for people to work together, the former spring sports coach continued. Heimann estimated that he served as a spring sports coach for 21 years.
“I know how it works. I know there’s a lot of time put in, but I also know when I coached spring sports my busiest time was when the season started to when it completed,” he said.
In spring 2020, sports had hardly begun before they ended in mid-March. At that time, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered Ohio schools to close and transition to remote education for three weeks. Ultimately, the remainder of the in-person school year was canceled, and spring sports, too, were discontinued.
“Had this happened when I was coaching, when I was in that process, I could not look the district in the face and say I should get 100 percent of my salary. I would not expect it,” Heimann said.
A newer board member, Brandon Wells echoed Heimann’s tone. He also has experience coaching spring sports..
“For me, if we’re talking about teachers setting good examples for our students and our student athletes, if I were to go to one of them and say I got paid for the full year, even though I didn’t coach you for the full year, I can’t even phantom what sort of example that sets,” Wells said.
Marrah said the district held off in making a decision to see if school might come back in session and the seasons would pick back up, but had earlier discussions with Baker from the ACTA.
An opportunity to sign a memorandum of understanding was discussed but the parties were unable to “come to terms on that,” the superintendent continued.
“So now we just need to move forward on that,” Marrah said.
Prior to the board’s vote, Baker urged the members to consider two things: Would they break a contract in their own businesses? And did it seem right to take away from their employees only a month after praising teachers for their adaptability during the transition to an online learning platform?
“Last month, you sat here and praised and thanked the teachers of this district, which I think we all appreciated because it was probably one of the first times we’d heard that -- so we did appreciate that,” Baker said. “But are you the kind of person who praises and thanks your employees in April and then in May takes money straight out of their pocket?”
She said she was disappointed to see the resolution even considered.
Wells said he’s typically quick to support the district’s teachers, but was surprised to see Baker’s resistance to this resolution.
“You have my support on 90 percent of the things the teachers come and say,” Wells said. “I understand we’re going to have some disagreements, (but) this is not one that I think the union should go down that road.
“I don’t think it’s good for your folks, for your group. I don’t think that’s a wise way to spend your resources and to force us into some sort of mediation or with some sort of grievance that we’d have to spend money defending our decision. Money that we don’t have.”
Fellow board member, Heimann said he’s not in the business of breaking contracts, but the situation is “extraordinary.” In speaking with a few who hold the supplemental contacts, he wasn’t under the impression that they anticipated the full payment because of the circumstances.
“I just think it’s ethically the right thing to do at this point,” he said about his support for the resolution.