Volunteer coaches a hot topic at school board meeting

  • Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dan Brown/Independent District 100 State Representative Eddy Southard addresses the school board.

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A possible change in school district policy was a hot topic at June 10’s Berkeley County School Board meeting.

Parents, volunteer coaches and their supporters packed the BCSD board room in Moncks Corner to voice their displeasure with the possible change; specifically, the banning of parents of varsity and JV student athletes from coaching in order to avoid the appearance of favoritism over other athletes.

Berkeley County Athletic Director Charlie Davis explained the district’s stance.

“To avoid the appearance of favoritism of players that happen to be children of volunteer coaches on their respective varsity and junior varsity teams, the school board plans to review its current policy of having parents of players serve as volunteer coaches,” he said in a released statement on June 9.

District 100 Rep. Eddy Southard spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting and said he appeared on behalf of his constituents to voice his support of the district’s volunteer coaches.

“I have some concerns regarding the board’s consideration of this policy change,” Southard said. “Just at Berkeley High School we have nine volunteer coaches who are non-district employees and many of those volunteer coaches are parents of competing athletes.

“A volunteer parent-coach is harder on his own son or daughter than he is on the other kids on the team.”

Moncks Corner resident Sally Wofford said a petition containing more than 330 signatures would be presented to the board.

“Volunteer coaches are vital to the success of a high school sports program,” she said. “It’s impossible to run a program involving 60 girls without parent-coaches. This ban would be devastating to the softball and baseball programs at Berkeley High School.“

Wofford asked the school board not to micro-manage: “I encourage the board to drop this matter and entrust the policy involving parent coaches to the principals and athletic directors of each individual school.”

Moncks Corner resident Ashley Carman also addressed the board.

“This policy doesn’t involve all schools so why initiate a blanket policy to cover all schools?”

Carman also wanted to know why the same ban didn’t apply to volunteer parents on the academic side: “Why would you discriminate against a parent volunteering his time with a sports program when you don’t have a problem with a parent serving in an administrative capacity with an academic function?”

Berkeley County Superintendent Rodney Thompson said that any change in the district’s policy could take up to two years to implement.

“There has been no final decision on this topic,” he said. “Schools have been told this is a possibility and to make alternative plans in case the policy is adopted.”

Thompson said the school board’s first obligation remains with the students.

“We have concerns about rumors circulating about coaches that are parents of varsity and junior varsity athletes showing favoritism. We want to protect our athletes and volunteers from such allegations.”

Thompson added any decision to change the district’s policy involves two committee reviews and two school board readings before being adopted.

“The district is ever grateful for the role our volunteers played throughout the county,” he said.

District 3 school board member Phillip Obie asked why the school board should involve itself in a matter that could and should be handled by the coach, the athletic director or the principal at a given school.

“I agree completely with what Sally Wofford said, why is the school board involving itself with this when this is something that should be handled by the coach, the athletic director or the principal?,” Obie said. “I don’t get it.”

Obie went on to say the school board is sending the wrong message.

“Clearly this is something that is not a county-wide problem,” he said. “It is a problem at one school and not throughout the county. Here, we are begging parents to get involved with their students at school, and when they do want to get involved, then we go and run them off.

“I don’t understand why we’re doing that.”

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