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School districts mixed over coach stipends

  • Concord celebrates their 2-1 over Londonderry in the Division I boys’ soccer title on Saturday at Southern NH University in Manchester, Nov. 7, 2015. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 5/10/2020 6:34:10 PM

The biggest question for many coaches after the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association officially canceled the spring sports season on April 16 was if they were still going to receive their stipends.

A few schools elected to honor their contract with coaches and pay them their full stipend. Other schools elected to distribute a partial stipend, while the majority of the 187 high schools statewide simply said, no season, no stipend.

Coaches who received their full stipend were grateful, while some coaches were told they will not be getting paid.

Bishop Guertin in Nashua, St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, and Windham High School confirmed they are paying 100% of stipends. Multiple sources also said Pinkerton Academy in Derry, ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough, Hopkinton Middle/High School, and Timberlane Regional were all paying 100 percent. 

Other schools to confirm they are paying partial stipends include Portsmouth Christian Academy in Dover (50%), Somersworth (50%), Dover (25%), Salem (25%) and Oyster River in Durham (not specified).

Concord athletic director Steve Mello said a decision “should be made” regarding his coaches next week, while Keene athletic director Michael Atkins said the decision from his school board is pending.

Jim Rines was set to begin his seventh season as head coach of the Milford High School softball team this spring. He was disappointed to learn he won’t be getting any of his stipend.

“After many discussions with the [athletic director], we thought we might at least get 20%, or maybe even full,” Rines said. “When we got the notification, it was disrespectful, and inconsiderate. Coaches have no say. My beef is that all stipends for spring coaches were appropriated through the budget. (Schools) are saving thousands upon thousands with no transportation, not buying supplies, and not paying officials; to me, it’s very disrespectful.”

Winnacunnet High School in Hampton is not paying its spring coaches any of their stipends.

Bill Lupini, the superintendent of schools at SAU 21, which services Winnacunnet, said the earmarked money for spring sports will be returned.

“In this economic environment we are going to try and maximize the money that will go back to the taxpayers,” Lupini said. “Money from transportation, money from materials we didn’t purchase that were targeted for the spring, that money will all be turned back; whatever we have for a fund balance at the end of the year goes back to the taxpayers.”

Tim Hopley, who was set to begin his 25th season as the head baseball coach at Portsmouth High School, was “disappointed” when his athletic director Rus Wilson shared the superintendent’s decision of not paying.

“I kind of knew that this was going to be the outcome,” Hopley said. “I know (the school board) looks at things black and white when it comes to the financial end of it. They don’t take into account that the season itself is really only half the job, and not the preparation that goes into it. They look at it as if there are no practices, and no games and no season, there is no stipend.”

Hopley said he understands that districts are trying to make the right decisions in an unprecedented situation.

“Every school department administration has to do what is best for their individual district; and our district decided (paying stipends) was something it wasn’t going to do. All the Portsmouth coaches are appreciative of (Wilson) trying to convince the powers that be to pay our stipends. As an administrator, he didn’t have to do that but we appreciate the effort on our behalf.”

Wilson said the decision was made early on.

“The school administration explained to us when the pandemic became prevalent, that if there was no spring sports season there would be no coaches stipends,” he said.

St. Thomas Aquinas athletic director Ryan Brown said the cost of paying spring stipends will be in the neighborhood of $35,000, a cost the school was more than willing to absolve.

“We’re in a fortunate position where we can offer full stipends,” said Brown, who is in his eighth season as athletic director. “The school, myself, our school board, and all the decision-makers realize the importance of our coaches. Coaches are working, and not just during the season. A lot of coaches had done a ton of work in preparation for this spring, prior to COVID-19, and we wanted to make sure they were recognized for all that work they had done.”

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