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Part II of a two-part story on Salida schools coach and activity sponsor stipends

In a meeting with the members of the Salida School Board the week of March 12, Salida athletic director Jim Coscarella presented a recommendation that would include a pay increase for certain coaches and sponsors of all levels across the school district.

In a letter dated March 12, Coscarella requested a total of $93,000 for stipends, with another $7,000 in additional stipend funds bringing the total requested funds to $100,000. He based his recommendation on the fact that the school district coaches have had no adjustments for the past 10 years. An economic reality rooted in the country’s economic recession from 2009 to 2011, but not justifiable today.

Based upon a statistical analysis that Costarella worked on with Dr. Robert Gilchrist, a former Salida School District teacher and former head of the math department, and another document titled Stipend Scales for Extra Duty 2009-2010 Costarella presented recommended changes.

History of sponsor stipends

Sponsors for different activity groups and their current payments are listed in the scales document (Part I, outlined coaches stipend recommendations). For sponsoring a “major activity” such as drama, yearbook, student council, student newspaper, instrumental, vocal and others, the head sponsor received $1,200.

The criteria listed for a major activity includes a minimum of 15 students, six contests or meetings, meet at least twice a month plus two weeks before the season, and sponsor an activity above junior high level.

An assistant sponsor to a major activity currently receives $500, according to the scales document. For a minor club, such as dey clubs, tech team, Spanish, art and others, the sponsor receives $800. Junior high clubs, which only list student council, sponsors receive $800.

Coscarella said that sponsors covered by the proposed increases include student council and band. Salida High School Student Council meets once a day during the school day, 20 plus hours of assemblies put on by the student council, as well as morning meetings, homecoming, Winterfest and other activities.

The student council sponsor “is close to 300 hours right there, [in] additional hours,” said Costarella. He added that those two activities were chosen because they are both CHSAA activities that have never been a part of the CHSAA stipend policy in the school district, according to Coscarella.

Costarella said he learned in talks with the band director, that over the course of the school year approximately 400 hours are spent between school functions, recitals, parades, games and other events.

“Drama, I added [for an increased stipennd] … because historically it has been extremely strong and continues to get better,” he said. “We have one of the top drama sponsors probably in the county, if not in the region.”

Coscarella explained he thought that the work the drama sponsor had put in had justified an increase in salary. Adding that between two productions, the sponsor of the drama club is putting in approximately 336 hours.

“At her current stipend, it’s about $3.50 an hour that she’s getting paid,” Coscarella said. “When I take that $2,500 and add that to her $2,000 that she’s [currently] making— now that has some teeth in it.”

He mentioned that some money was given to the drama sponsor a few years ago, but “not what she’s worth.”

Coscarella also proposed an increase in his stipend. He offered to calculate the number of hours he spent on the road over a year, which he said, “increases every year” due to the increased success of the programs.

Participation challenges and the no-cut policy

Coscarella also addressed the board about a “no cut” policy when it came to students joining activities.

School board member Joel McBride mentioned that it was “terrible,” but if fewer kids were allowed in programs, the need for coaches would be smaller and more focused. “You’d be paying more, and not spread out over so many,” said McBride, in reference to the smaller number of coaches required.

Coscarella said the first time in his career an additional coach had to be requested was in the last couple years. He explained that talks had taken place about putting in place a cut-sport policy. Once a certain number of participants was reached that “we could not physically service that we may have to cut” athletes from the team.

But Coscarella questioned how the district would execute a cut-sport policy. “Look, does it cut the worst person?” he asked. “Or do you cut from the youth, or do you cut from the top? If a senior can’t make [the] C-team, do you take it away from him and give it to a freshman?”

School board member Kyle Earhart said that these were tough, but good questions. “I see the other side, how many times have I seen the data where our students GPA and our student success is successfully correlated to the numbers of activities in which they are involved?”

According to Earhart, the average GPA for each student involved with more than three activities was 3.85 or above. He said those were hard numbers to argue with.

Coscarella said that bigger schools often have teams with more than 100 members. “We’re going to have that issue,” he said, adding that activity participation is likely to rise in direct correlation with the growth of the school.

Other sports and school board stipend concerns

School board member Jennifer Visitacion said that a past discussion had taken place about the creation of a Salida lacrosse team. But the problem was the number interested in participating and lack of space for a field, as the sport takes place in the spring. Other sports would compete for field space.

Coscarella also brought up issues with students from Salida traveling to Lake County to join the competitive ski team, as Salida did not offer one.

School board member Joe Smith asked if some coaches would be grandfathered into the new payment program (the answer is yes). He said a “paradigm shift” was occurring in the transition from a “small-sized town to a mid-sized town.”

“I think one of the things I’ve heard is that we would like not just a conversation, but a recommendation on a cut policy moving forward, which is a hard conversation,” said Earhart.

Visitacion voiced some concerns if a cut policy were to go into immediate effect.

Coscarella volunteered to work on future research and proposals for future discussions on this topic. “If the focus stays on the kids and decisions are made for the kids, the right decision will be made.”