Upshur BOE discusses coach hiring process

One person challenged the Upshur County Board of Education to reconsider an unwritten rule that blocks school administrators from coaching sports during a recent meeting at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

During Thursday’s meeting, Jimbo Samples said the varsity wrestling coach at Buckhannon-Upshur High School is an administrator in Randolph County. Samples noted that even though the coach takes on the duties of an administrator in another county, he is permitted to coach in Upshur County. He also added that an administrator for Upshur County could coach in Lewis County.

Superintendent of Schools Scott Lampinen said he doesn’t believe the rule is part of a written policy, but it is a practice that has been used in Upshur County for as long as he can remember.

“The rationale behind it is because administrators are already on a supplemental extra duty,” Lampinen said. “The time requirements for an administrator would be in direct conflict with the time constraints of a coach.”

Lampinen said the school board can’t control when people choose to take on a second job, unless the employee was to coach for a local school and be a local administrator simultaneously.

“Rick Reynolds is probably one of the best offensive and defensive line coaches in the state,” Samples said about the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School vice principal. “He’s coaching against the kids that just left the middle school. That’s a slap in their face.”

Samples felt the policy should be addressed. Because he coaches outside the county, Reynolds faces an additional constraint with the time it takes to travel.

“If he can do that along with his other responsibilities, we probably ought to readdress that unwritten policy,” board member Patrick Long said.

Not all policies or laws regarding the hiring procedures of employees are unwritten, however. At the school board meeting, attorney Howard Seufer Jr. presented the legal criteria that must be followed when selecting a candidate for vacant coaching positions.

The information he presented was to help the school board understand the special hiring restrictions required of educational institutions under the West Virginia state law.

“There’s a lot of confusion about this throughout the state because of some developments in recent years,” Seufer said. “Public education in West Virginia is more heavily regulated by state government than any other state in the Union. Every time we turn around, it seems like there’s a new state law that tells us we can do something or we can’t do something, or we must do something or we can only do it a certain way.”

Seufer said hiring a coach is not as easy as finding a good candidate with excellent knowledge and experience, nor is it about promoting an individual who is successful in their job. All public school vacancies must follow the laws that are handed down from the state. Those laws require that priority be given to individuals who have a full teaching certificate from the state of West Virginia.

He said it wouldn’t matter if one candidate had no coaching experience and another was “born on the field.” If the first candidate had the certification that the other did not, and even if the first candidate had significantly less experience, the state law would require the school board to hire the first candidate over the second. If no candidate with a West Virginia teaching certificate applies within the time allotted on the job notice, the other candidates may be considered. Even if only one candidate applies, a hiring decision must be made within 30 days of the application deadline. If no candidates apply, the school board can readvertise the position.

The only exceptions to hiring a teacher with state certification is when the certified candidate fails the criminal background test, he or she withdraws the application or declines the job offer. If school boards have additional rules and restrictions about the hiring process in their policy, they also must follow those when selecting the candidate. If the state laws and local policies are not met, the hiring decision could be challenged.