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Chisago Lakes Schools

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August 3, 2020

7/17/2020 9:52:00 AM
Chisago Lakes school board still debating potential fall coaching pay

After two prior meetings of preliminary discussion, the Chisago Lakes school board fleshed out the conversation of coaching pay in the fall athletic season, but a decision won’t be made until there is a bit more clarity on the issue.

The concern of cancelled fall seasons is becoming real, and Activities Director Jodi Otte has been looking to the board for guidance on coaching contracts since May. Spring coaches were paid in full because their season had started already, even if most of them hadn’t gotten into games yet.

For fall, Otte presented two options to the board at the meeting. Option one, which is her recommendation, is paying head coaches 50 percent of their pay and assistant and lower level coaches zero. Option two is paying head coaches 25 percent of their salary and zero to the assistant and lower level coaches. Chisago Lakes Education Minnesota and the teacher’s union also agreed on the 50 percent suggestion.

In her recommendation of paying 50 percent to the head coaches, Otte cites, “Being a head coach is a year-long commitment. Building a program and developing a team does not begin when a season begins.”

She also notes that their planning and prep is a lot more involved than the assistant and lower level coaches. She listed event scheduling, ordering of equipment and uniforms, online store set up, parent meetings, practice planning, transportation requests and training programs as tasks the head coaches need to complete prior to a season ever starting. “Head coaches are the face of our programs and retention of them is important for sustaining and growing our programs,” she said. “We value and appreciate their commitment to our student athletes and as well as their dedication to our families and school district.”

The difference in paying the coaches 50 percent and 25 percent is about $50,000.  There would be a near $100,000 in savings from paying the head coaches just 50 percent, and almost $150,000 in savings if the district paid just 25 percent.

Board member Lori Berg opened the discussion, saying, “I initially thought it maybe didn’t make sense to pay coaches at a time when we laid off a large amount of employees, but since then, as I look at recommendations from Jodi and from community members, I’ve become convinced that there is some work happening outside of the season. 

“For me, though, the percentage is tricky. I’m not sure that I’m convinced they are doing 50 percent of their work if there is no season, practice, games or travel. I’m leaning more towards 25 percent. But I would like to preface that by  saying coaches work way beyond what they are paid, but that’s not the issue. If their season gets cancelled, what are we going to pay them? Twenty-five percent seems reasonable to me.”

Fellow board member Dani Strenke echoed those sentiments, “25 percent was the number I was floating around in my head as they are putting in some work,” she said. “I would rather support the 25 percent, but if the group decides on 50, I’m OK with that too.”
Board member Jerry Vitalis said he would also lean towards 25 percent, but  said, “As we go on and different schools or the governor come out with anything, that might change. But at this point, I’d stick with 25 percent and no more.”

Mark Leigh was the lone dissenter. “Being a former head coach, I know the amount of work you have to do out of season and during the season and the responsibilities placed on you. It’s hard to say where the percentage of time goes,” he explained. “Being a head coach is a very visible position. Players, parents, community members and assistant coaches always look to you and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that. I like to try to seriously consider the recommendation by the administrators that we work with. We also try to follow the trend, but I’d like to set the trend here. Coming into the meeting tonight, I thought I would go with the recommendation. In terms of our overall budget, it’s a very small amount.”

Board member Brenda Carlson, who is the head coach of the girls softball team, said, “I’m not going to comment on a whole lot, but fall starts August 17 and our next board meeting isn’t until August 20. As a coach, I wouldn’t take the field without a contract just for liability reasons. We need to be aware of that in the next three weeks.”

When asked, board member Melissa Donovan said she had a concern if they were going to get a recommendation from the state in time, but wanted to wait to see to make any decisions.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a special meeting for Monday, July 27 at 3 p.m. The item was already on the agenda to name a new Food Service Director following the retirement of Kathy Burrill, but Vitalis noted they could add the coaching contracts into that meeting if they have clarity on the issues at that time.

Speaking of Burrill, she announced her retirement after 13 years in the district as the Food Service Director. “We want to thank Kathy for her years of service and congratulations to her. We wish her well,”Superintendent Dean Jennissen said.

The school board voted to increase school lunches by 10 cents each at the elementary and high school level and increasing all breakfasts by five cents. “While we were able to continue to serve students during the closure, it amounted to a significant loss of revenue because we served far less students,” Burrill said in one of her final reports. She noted they had been serving nearly 2,000 students per day before the closure but only 889 during the closure. They also sold ala carte items to supplement the fund balance to support purchases.

Jim and Ann Gillach donated $750 for the athletics department. “They’ve been great supporters of the school, as well as leaders in teaching and administration,” Leigh noted.

The board informally welcomed new Director of Business Services Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson. Vosberg-Torgerson was at the June board meeting, but because of technical difficulties in the virtual meeting setting, most could not see her being introduced. She takes over for Doug Hasler, who resigned to take a job with Two Harbors School District. Vosberg-Torgerson was previously the Business Manager for the Milaca School District.

The board approved the notice for candidate filing for the November 3 elections. The window to file for a school board position is Tuesday, July 28 and closes Tuesday, August 11 at 5 p.m.

There are three seats up for election, and they are currently held by Berg, Vitalis and Carlson.

The meeting ended with Jennissen’s monthly report. He said, “We continue to pay attention to the weekly update from the Department of Education and fall planning. Our focus will be on keeping our students and staff safe and developing effective learning within the parameters that are outlined. We are hoping for a traditional school setting, but we have to plan for the other options. We love our students and love what we do and we have very talented staff members that are ready to serve those students.”

Jennissen also noted that  he was told the buyer of the old Lakeside property is hoping to close sooner than the scheduled closing date, but that he hasn’t seen anything formal.

The property, which sold for it’s asking price of $1.2 million, is scheduled to close on Friday, August 28.

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