Coaches battle continues

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 23, 2000

City school board members spent four hours in executive session Monday night but did not take action on parents’ and residents’ requests to decide at that meeting whether or not Bob Lutz and Mike Burcham will coach next school year.

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

City school board members spent four hours in executive session Monday night but did not take action on parents’ and residents’ requests to decide at that meeting whether or not Bob Lutz and Mike Burcham will coach next school year. Instead, the board will meet in special session at 5 p.m. Wednesday to take up the issue again.

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"We are currently working the issue, but we don’t have a resolution this evening," board president Rayetta Waldo said.

Mrs. Waldo’s explanation was met with protest from more than 50 people attending the meeting who want answers now because weightlifting and other football practice activities start soon, they said.

"Take them into executive session, say what duties they have and what they need, wait five days, meet again and hire them," resident and teacher Terry Barker said. "It’s that simple."

Even a temporary position, until the full contract can be negotiated, should be considered, Barker said.

The issue has existed since February; the community wants the coaches to stay and the board should make it happen, parent Teresa Parker said.

"These gentlemen should coach next year," she said.

School board members said they were in favor of seeing the coaches return, but added they must follow procedures so there are no legal problems.

The coaches, who helped lead the Ironton Fighting Tigers to two state championships, want to retire from teaching but maintain coaching contracts.

Lutz and Burcham originally asked for salary increases and job description changes in those supplemental contracts – moves the Ironton Teachers Association said must be negotiated.

The union and the administration are discussing the issue but certain collective bargaining agreement procedures must be followed, superintendent Steve Kingery said.

The coaches have submitted resignations to begin the process. The coaching jobs then must be posted for five days before the board can hire them back, Kingery said.

Addressing the board, Lutz echoed concerns of residents at the meeting, saying he understands procedure but does not understand why the issue could not have been resolved two months ago.

Some people feel the board is waiting in an effort to force the coaches to leave entirely, Lutz said.

"I get the feeling that’s what you hope will happen," he said. "I, the students, everybody think it’s a priority. Why does it take to the next meeting or a month later?"

Mrs. Waldo said she was optimistic that with negotiations between the union and management, the board would be contacting the coaches in the near future.

Lutz called it sad that there appears to be a "sticking point" because of a few thousand dollars.

"I will waive any raise for coaching football so that nothing has to go through the union," he said.

Burcham also asked each board member if they wanted he and Lutz to return in the fall, and each said yes.

"Let’s end all this then," Burcham said.

"They want to know if Lutz and Burcham will be their coaches," he said. "Can I tell them that?"

If the salary is the only sticking point, the board can work it out the best way it can, he added.

The board voted to enter executive session to discuss the issue, inviting the coaches and union president Mary Ann Philabaun into that meeting at different times during the four hours.

No action was taken after the session except to set Wednesday’s meeting.

Before the executive session, though, coach supporters said the board can and should make an immediate decision.

Board member Gary Neal agreed, saying it was time to decide.

"The way it was when I worked in a union was if something was wrong, they filed a grievance," Neal said. "There’s not an arbitrator in the country that would go against Burcham or Lutz. We pay janitors more than they get."

Neal made a motion to employ Burcham and Lutz under the plan that the coaches want to use, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Ironton attorney and football program supporter John Wolfe called the board’s lack of action wrong.

"The board is autonomous," he said, adding that Neal’s motion should have been seconded. "Don’t try to shuffle it off on administrative action You can do what you want to do."

Kingery said the board’s labor management attorney, Bob Cross of Cross Management, advised the board that any action without involving the union would result in an unfair labor practice charge, he said.

And the board’s decision would be overturned at some point, Kingery added.

Wolfe called that statement wrong and urged support for the coaches.

Residents attending the meeting jeered at Cross Management’s advice. Some attending said the board members who did not second Neal’s motion would not be re-elected.

The board is not at liberty to say what is delaying the decision, Mrs. Waldo said after the executive session.

But the board does support the coaches, she said.

Board member Robert Pleasant said he could not discuss executive session deliberations in detail but said some issues must be worked out still.

"Nobody is saying we don’t want coach Lutz or Burcham," Pleasant said. "We need to meet and discuss items that are sticking points."