Crookston School District - Spring coaches to receive 50% pay

Mike Christopherson

    On the heels of a Pirates’ spring sports season that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how much should the coaches of the spring sports teams be paid?

    The Crookston School Board at a special meeting Wednesday decided that they should receive 50% of their pay. The vote was unanimous. (Board member Mike Theis was absent. He is an officer with the Minnesota State Patrol and has been in the Twin Cities assisting at the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.)

    Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson recommended that the coaches be paid 33% of their salary, to compensate them for the preparation that they put in to a season that didn’t happen. According to the meeting packet in advance of a special Crookston School Board meeting Wednesday morning, Olson indicates that Activities Director Greg Garmen requested that the spring coaches be paid in full, as other area school districts, including Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks, are doing.

    But Olson went into Wednesday’s meeting sticking to his 33% recommendation, while acknowledging it’s a decision the board would have to make.

    At the meeting, Board Chair Frank Fee called for a motion to pay the spring Pirate coaches 33% of their salary, but no board member made a motion. So Fee then asked for a motion to pay the coaches half of their salary, and board member Tim Dufault made that motion, and board member Dave Davidson offered a second.

Tough situation

    In his remarks in the meeting packet, Olson agrees that it is not an easy situation. “We needed to make decisions and (recommending 33% salary) is a one of the calls I made,” he states. “…This is one of those very difficult tasks for the school board as there is not a right answer here, no easy answer, as this is a situation which none of us have been in before.”

    Garmen, according to Olson, thinks paying the coaches 100% of their salary for the spring season would be a goodwill gesture, of sorts, and keep them “whole.” Garmen has also indicated that coaches are already difficult the find, and that full spring coaches’ pay was already included in the budget.

    Even so, Olson says in his remarks that he cannot justify paying the spring coaches their entire salary when the district at the same time is refunding all of the spring sports fees to parents, which totals $20,600.

    If the district pays the spring coaches 33% of their salary, the district will save $31,000 and, when the refund of the fees is factored in, come out $10,400 ahead. With the coaches being paid 50%, the district will come out $400 ahead. If the decision would have been made to pay the coaches 75% or 100% of their salary and the refunded fees are factored in, the district would have come out $15,100 and $20,600 in the red, respectively.

    There are many ways to look at the situation, Olson states in his remarks. What is the right thing to do for the kids, coaches and community? What about the taxpayers? Would they support paying for something that didn’t happen. What about the coaches themselves? They were planning to get paid in full, they fully invested in the upcoming spring season, and the fact it was cancelled is not their fault. Also, Olson notes, the board’s decision sets a precedent in the event the pandemic potentially puts the Pirates fall sports season in jeopardy as well.

    As for contractual considerations, Olson notes that the full salaries are listed in the master agreement, but that a clause exists that allows for coaches’ pay to be reduced if there aren’t a sufficient number of participants.