Earlier this month I wrote that the School District of Janesville had dropped the baton in a proverbial relay race. It had previously decided to pay most of its spring coaches nothing after the sports season was canceled in the way of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday night, school board members picked up the baton and finished out the race.
They voted 8-1 to reinstate coaches’ pay at a 50% rate.
If race results were being printed, Janesville would still rank at or near the back of the pack in terms of pay rate.
Seven of the other eight Big Eight Conference schools have paid their coaches in full. So, too, have area schools such as Milton, Elkhorn, Lake Geneva Badger, Edgerton, Evansville, Beloit Turner, Whitewater and Brodhead.
Locally, only Beloit Memorial (40%) and Delavan-Darien (10%) are paying their coaches less than 50%.
Still, Tuesday’s decision at least felt like a compromise and a show of respect to coaches who work year-round, not just during their sport’s official season as some district administrators clearly believe.
If every area district had decided six weeks ago to pay its coaches at 50%, I feel like most people—and even perhaps a majority of coaches—would have considered that reasonable given the unprecedented set of circumstances we’re living in.
Prior to voting on coaching pay Tuesday, the board listened to an hour-long presentation regarding future referendum considerations. Tough decisions are looming, and they were there before coronavirus was even a thing. So I understand board members who were set on being fiscally responsible when they asked to compromise on board member Kevin Murray’s initial motion to pay coaches 100%.
I might not agree with them (certainly not with the board member who lamented that some coaches were offering student-athletes help virtually but some were not...were they all supposed to offer their work for free when you told them they wouldn’t be paid?), but I can understand their points of view.
The baton has been picked up, and this race is over. But there will be other races, and they will shed further light on the direction of this district—be it within athletics or elsewhere.
In fact, if a referendum becomes a reality in the near future, that might be a prime example.
During Tuesday’s referendum presentation, board members were told, “Elkhorn can’t fail a referendum. They’ve had huge success. That’s probably because it’s a great board, a great district, a great administrative team, and they have advocacy.”
Need proof? Elkhorn athletic director Dan Kiel, when emailed to ask about spring coaching pay, said, “We are paying our coaches. They are working virtually with their teams and many have put in countless hours during the off season. The reality is that they are missing out on the fun part of the year.”
I’m not saying Janesville needs to find a way to copy everything Elkhorn is doing.
But if you’re looking for a proverbial relay team that seems to have four strong legs, it’s at least one local example of a group getting things done.