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Some coaches overdue for raise for extra work

In the wake of the recent wage increase so graciously given to the instructional and non-instructional personnel of the Hernando County school district (a 1.86 percent and 20-cents-an-hour increase, respectively), one group was completely left out: the coaches.

Can any School Board member, the superintendent or his designees remember the last time the coaches received an increase in their supplement?

This has become, over the years, a non-negotiable item. Unfortunately, many of the coaches are not members of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association. However, every group should be given consideration.

I am fully aware that Hernando High School athletic director Rodney Byrd is a member of the bargaining unit, but how much clout does one individual have in speaking for all of the coaches in the county? Has an administrator ever stood up and spoken on behalf of a supplement increase for coaches?

The disparity in supplements between high school and middle school is staggering. When I first began coaching in the late 1970s, we had a junior high baseball schedule that consisted of 14 games. At the time, West Hernando Junior High was the only other county school. Consequently, all the remaining games were played against Pasco County schools. The season lasted 10 to 12 weeks. The supplement at that time was $649. Now, most middle school seasons consist of eight games and finish in six weeks, and the supplement has ballooned to $1,349.

As a high school varsity basketball coach, my team averages 30 games a year. More than half of the games are away. Many of us play in tournaments that take additional time away from our families. Our supplement is less than $2,000 after taxes.

A former player of mine now coaches two teams at the middle school level. She has a total of 16 games between the two teams. It would take her four years to equal the amount of away games we play every year. Ironically, she takes home a higher supplement. I certainly don't blame her for taking advantage of this opportunity.

In Georgia, a varsity coach is paid 20 percent of the base salary and an assistant varsity coach 10 percent. Therefore, each time the base pay is increased, your supplement is increased. That just makes too much sense for this district to consider, however. Our School Board members can only budget increases for the finance director, the management information services director, the assistant MIS director and the finance department staff, most of whom are newcomers to the district.

In Marion County, the basketball coaches negotiated to have their supplement on equal terms, both boys and girls, with the football coaches. I am not criticizing football coaches, but the basketball season is the longest of any of the varsity sports, in part due to the holidays. We should be justly compensated for the amount of time we spend with our athletes.

There is no incentive to go beyond the regular season other than personal pride on the part of the athletes as well as the coach. In the past, some of my teams have gone as many as three weeks beyond the regular season. The supplement agreement is for the regular season only. Generally, a pat on the back is the only additional compensation granted.

I feel that the two best professions for anyone to be a part of are teaching and coaching. I have been fortunate to do both and value the opportunity to work with the children of Hernando County.

By the way, the last time I received an increase in my supplement as a varsity basketball coach was 1983. I think it's about time we get some consideration.

_ Walter T. Cermak is the varsity girls basketball coach at Hernando High School. He lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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