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home : sports : sports
June 5, 2020

5/22/2020 11:49:00 AM
New girls hockey co-op formed with North Branch; coaches pay debated

Two sports-related votes confronted North Branch School Board members last week. One was a breeze; but the other was subject to an agonizing debate, and in the end action was delayed to June.

A new girls’ hockey team was approved for the Mississippi 8, with the vote authorizing a three-school cooperative.  The current co-op between St Francis and North Branch was dissolved,  and the Northern Tier Stars came into being,  keeping St. Francis as the home ice and Cambridge-Isanti becomes the new third partner with North Branch.

The St. Francis-North Branch co-op was very Saint heavy last year, with only five North Branch girls on the team. This resulted in no junior varsity squad for the program. With the injection of Cambridge-Isanti, a junior varsity team should be feasible, which will help the program grow.
The vote was unanimous with no debate during the May 14 school board meeting held via the internet.

Meanwhile; wages for spring sports coaching was a lengthy discussion with no clear decision.   The School Board decided to look at the issue again in June, directing staff to work up  more numbers on financial consequences and pay-out options.  

The School Board was told 27 coaches are due their second half stipend for spring sports, in total about $50,000.  Coaches already got first half-payment at the outset of the spring sports season.

Because the issue is part of a contract, the School Board is responsible for revisions to any agreement.

Spring sports were called- off due to coronavirus concerns.  Supt. Dr. Deb Henton remarked how this wage discussion, “...is just one of issue after issue we are dealing with in this pandemic.”

North Branch District 138 lost revenue when events were not held, but the district also realized savings  not having expenses such as transportation and officiating.   

District Finance Director Todd Tetzlaff said the district will draw down an activities fund even in a normal year and this spring season especially, there just isn’t enough in the budget.  

His report on the situation in other districts, showed that some in the Mississippi 8 are not paying coaches for the spring sports season at all, some are paying a portion of what was agreed upon.

Board member Sarah Grovender said the fact North Branch coaches got paid half-- with no spring sports played-- should be viewed as a positive. The 50 percent may “not be ideal” but coaches should take this as an indication they have an important role in students’ lives and sports are acknowledged, she remarked.
Board member Heather Osagiede observed that with revenues unable to support the pay there must be an impact on future budgets, and she  asked about cuts necessary behind transferring monies.

Board member Tim MacMillan too, asked for more information on where the stipend funds would come from.  Is there any percentage of the payment the district could offer and stay out of the red?

Board Chair Kirby Ekstrom and member Kevin Bollman both supported a failed motion (2-3 vote with Darryl Goebel having resigned) directing accounting to simply pay the full second half.

This topic will be on the next Board agenda. At this time the contract still calls for full second payments for all coaching but the stipends are officially “suspended.”

In other matters:
There’s a public hearing on student activity fees scheduled for June 11.   The Board meeting location has not been finalized, earlier meetings have been held in the education center,  but since the covid-19 shutdown the Board has been meeting from their homes using Internet communication.
To send the Board any public comment:  citizens are encouraged to e mail thoughts and suggestions to Board Chair Kirby Ekstrom at kekstrom@isd138.org

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