When is a coach a coach—year-round or just during the sports season?

Janesville School Board member Kevin Murray hopes to settle that philosophical question and its financial repercussions at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

At issue is pay for the Janesville School District’s spring coaching staff.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers ordered all schools closed through the end of the school year. Shortly thereafter, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association suspended and then eventually canceled spring sports.

The school district paid its track and field coaches for the week or so of practices they oversaw before the season was suspended. The remaining coaches did not receive any pay.

Murray wants the board to overturn that decision.

The school district has 47 spring coaches at the middle and high schools, Assistant Superintendent Scott Garner wrote in an email to The Gazette. Paying them all would cost $178,700.

Not being paid for not working seems to make sense, but Murray argues that the coaches are—and have been—working year-round.

Even now, coaches are working virtually with their athletes, he said.

“I know for sure that coach (Victor) Herbst, who is the head of Craig’s baseball team, works year-round with those kids,” Murray said. “He’s at open gyms; he’s at conferences; he has direct contact with students all year-round making sure they’re behaving, making sure they’re getting good grades, making sure they’re showing up.”

Milton, Elkhorn, Lake Geneva Badger, Evansville, Brodhead/Juda, Beloit Turner, Clinton, Edgerton and Whitewater are paying their spring head coaches. Orfordville-Parkview is giving its coaches 80% of their pay. Big Foot is paying 50% and Delavan-Darien, 10%.

Janesville school officials have said that because no spring sports are taking place, spring coaches are not getting paid. Coaches with teaching contracts are being paid for teaching.

When asked previously why the district was not following the example of other school districts, Janesville officials told The Gazette, “While we cannot speak to how other districts determine how to use their limited funds, we must balance our commitment to support employees for the work that they do, while remaining fiscally responsible to our local taxpayers.”

The district likely will face budget cuts for the 2020-21 school year, district officials told the school board last week. The pandemic is expected to reduce state revenue, and because schools are the largest expense in the state budget, the impact of COVID-19 could be significant, officials have said.