Ironton board explains position

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2000

The Ironton Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss issues that led to Friday’s student protest at Ironton High School.

Saturday, April 08, 2000

The Ironton Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss issues that led to Friday’s student protest at Ironton High School.

Email newsletter signup

The controversy centers on a proposal by longtime coaches Bob Lutz and Mike Burcham to continue paid coaching positions after they retire as teachers.

The coaches refused to comment Friday about the plans, which surfaced in the community in recent weeks.

"The board is in full support of them doing that," superintendent Steve Kingery said.

Proper procedure must be followed, however, to ensure they can receive state teacher retirement benefits and to ensure the district is protected from unfair labor practices, Kingery said.

By law, the coaches must apply to state officials for retirement, resign their teaching positions and not work for 60 days after that retirement date, he said.

"Once the board acts on their retirement, and posts the positions, they can respond," Kingery said. "The board is supportive of employing them back into their current supplemental contracts."

Afterward, they can work part-time, which is 85 days per year, he said.

The supplemental contracts pay the teachers for assuming coaching and athletic director positions.

Board president Rayetta Waldo confirmed the board’s support of the move.

"We would be happy to have them back as retired and coaching," Mrs. Waldo said.

But the nature of the proposed staffing change, which includes a salary increase, requires action to come through other channels.

The coaches have submitted a proposal under which the high school athletic director’s position would be shared by both, which in effect turns one full-time position into two part-time positions and changes the salary, Kingery said.

Each coach is seeking a $10,000 salary, which they contend accurately compensates them for the job’s duties, he said.

Because the move will change a job description and create new salaries, there must be negotiations with the Ironton Education Association – the district’s teachers’ union.

"The board cannot unilaterally set that salary," Kingery said. "That is an unfair labor practice."

Union officials have supported the coaches’ proposal but have told board members they expect the salaries to be negotiated.

"All we are saying as a board of education is if the coaches desire this, they need to go through the union to represent them in that endeavor," Mrs. Waldo said.

The board has never stated its opposition to the plan, she said.

During Friday’s protest, students said coaches had been threatened about losing their jobs or had resigned.

Board members said students were acting on rumors. Both coaches remain employed and no formal proposal about their retirement plans has come before the board, Kingery said.

Students still want to know what’s going on and want the coaches to remain at the high school, junior football player Matt Kelly said.

"I believe we did accomplish what we were trying to do and that was get the board to talk to us," Kelly said.

A public board meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Ironton Sports Center on the high school campus. The board will meet privately with three student representatives prior to the meeting to explain the district’s position.

Kingery urged students at the protest to return to class in exchange for that meeting.

The district did not want to turn a deaf ear to the students’ concerns, Kingery said.

"We support their right to express themselves.," he said. "What I want to do is give the students an opportunity to talk first. That’s the purpose of the meeting and for the board to clarify the facts of the situation to them."

Kingery also said he was impressed with how the leaders of the student protest kept things orderly while expressing their opinion Friday.

Students returned to class at 11 a.m.