Funding puts ADs, coaches in limbo

Expiring contracts may not be renewed

Staff WriterMarch 27, 2009 

Steve Spivey, who has a 474-44 overall record in his 29 years coaching boys tennis at Broughton, doesn't know if he'll be allowed to coach the Caps next year.

Bob Catapano is one of the leading high school athletics directors in the state. The Sanderson athletic director is who other area athletic directors call when they need information or advice.

But Catapano said he is waiting to find out if he will be at Sanderson next fall.

"No one knows. Everyone has questions, but no one has many answers," Catapano said.

Spivey, Catapano and other coaches who work on one-year contracts with Wake County Schools may not know until June 30 or after if they will have jobs in the system.

Wake superintendent Del Burns has directed schools to not extend contracts to any staff who are on terminating contracts until after June 30.

About 9 percent (1,496) of the Wake system's 17,000 employees have contracts that will expire on June 30.

Some of them are like Catapano and Spivey, who retired with 30 years service but reentered the work force with one-year contracts that have been renewed annually. Other coaches who were hired during the school year have terminating contracts.

The uncertainty affecting Wake and other school districts is that the state, which provides the majority of funding for schools, faces a $3 billion budget shortfall. Federal stimulus money could help, but it is unclear how much Wake will receive. Gov. Beverly Perdue's proposed budget would not decrease public education spending, but the budget is made by the legislature. In addition, the county also provides funding, and the county budget is not set.

Normally, systems with growing student enrollment see increases in state funding. But Wake is preparing for a 5 percent decrease. Burns has proposed a 2009-10 budget of $1.2 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"Right now, there are a lot more questions than answers," said Greg Thomas, a Wake County Schools spokesperson. "This is day by day. If suddenly we learned that the revenue flow was better than expected, the picture could change.

"A lot depends on the state budget."

Because the county is not hiring new teachers, some athletic directors wonder where next year's coaches will come from if any current coaches decide to not coach.

"If we can't bring in people from outside the county, where is our pool of applicants?" Catapano said.

Thomas said some of the employees on one-year contracts probably will be offered jobs after June 30.

Principals have been told to fill 95 percent of the positions they normally receive.

If there is a 5 percent reduction, about 700 of the people with terminating contracts might be offered positions, Thomas said.

"The hope is that we can bring them all back, but we don't know at this point," Thomas said. "For years, those terminating contracts have been renewed almost automatically."

Thomas said he expects the final decisions about who is offered positions will be made on the school level by principals.

Spivey certainly hopes that he will be hired again.

"I coach two sports [girls tennis in the fall and boys in the spring], and my P.E. classes have 31, 32 students in each," he said. "I'm 56 years old. I'm in great shape, and I love working with the kids in the classroom and on the court.

"I think I am a valuable member of the staff here. I just hope that all that and 29 years at the school will be enough to keep my job."

tim.stevens@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4560

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