Stipends for varsity head coaches at Paso Robles High have been fully reinstated for this year, although they aren’t reinstated for any assistants or lower-level coaches throughout the Paso Robles Public Schools District.
The stipends were originally cut in April as the district faced a $7.4 million deficit in light of nearly $17 billion being cut from the state’s education budget over the past two years. The district, however, recently received $1.3 million from the Federal Jobs Act.
“When the Federal Jobs Act money came around, the board decided that they would reinstate (extracurricular) stipends as much as they could after reinstating the academic programs first,” district superintendent Kathleen McNamara said. “We tried to balance what we felt was most appropriate for students to offer them a well-rounded program.”
At one point, the school board was set to offer all stipends back at 50 percent, a proposal ultimately rejected by the teachers union.
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The coaching stipends have ranged from about $1,700 to $4,000, from middle schools up to the highest-paid varsity coach. Although they equate to well below minimum wage, coaches generally perceive stipends as a symbol of appreciation and commonly use them to help justify to their families the amount of time spent away from home.
In recent years, 40 assistant and lower-level coaches have received stipends at Paso Robles High. The cuts caused several coaches to voice concern over the ability of the school to retain quality coaches in the future, and now some head coaches, even with their own stipends back, are upset their assistants have been left empty-handed.
Mike Gray, the head coach of the Bearcats’ varsity girls basketball team, said this upcoming season would be his last, and Mickey Cook, the school’s longtime track and field coach, said two of his assistants have told him they won’t be back.
“Paso Robles could see a mass exodus of coaches,” Gray said. “It’s time for the community of Paso Robles to stand up for a lot of activities and a lot of programs.”
Cook himself said he was undecided about his future.
“I’ve got four assistants who’re out there working just as hard as I am,” Cook said, “and they’re not going to be compensated for their time? I don’t see how anyone could see that as a fair and equitable relationship.”
Both Gray and Cook said a feeling exists among coaches that they’re now in a no-win situation in that, if they step down now, they might be vilified as abandoning students; but if they stay, they’re content with their staffs being treated entirely like volunteers.
“It’s a matter of principle,” Cook said. “Are we recognized for who we are and what we contribute?”
McNamara said the lack of stipends for assistant and lower-level coaches is “not a reflection on their work,” nor the importance of sports.
“This is the best we could do with the dollars we have available,” McNamara said. “This in no way denigrates or disrespects or speaks lightly of the hard work we know (assistant and lower-level coaches) do. We appreciate them and we wish we could give them all a 100-percent stipend.”