When hiring a coach for any school sport, West Virginia school law automatically dictates the hiring of a teacher over anyone outside the school system. It does not matter how much experience the lay person applying for the job may have - or how little the teacher may have - the lay person will not get the position if a teacher bids on it.
And in those few instances where a lay person is hired as a coach, it is only for one year - the job is required to be posted again the following year to give school personnel the opportunity to bid on it.
This issue has long been debated in West Virginia and it was raised again on Tuesday during the Wood County Board of Education meeting when former VanDevender Middle School football coach Romel "Boo" Henderson expressed his frustration upon learning he will not be returning as coach this year. Henderson who coached the team last year, can't be hired this year because two school employees bid on the Vandy job when it was posted two weeks ago.
"I build a team. I get that team built up, I get them to where they are winning and I'm a (lay coach), and now that teacher sees that and I'm gone," Henderson told the board.
Overall, the law itself is not a bad one. The coaching job is within the school system, and probably should be filled by a professional educator whenever possible. The coach of a school-based team needs to have more than just knowledge of a particular sport. He or she also needs to have the ability to mold and motivate young people. Teachers do this every day of the week.
Of course, a lay person is just as capable as a teacher of doing this. Henderson seemed to be successful on that level. Vandy principal Steve Taylor said Henderson does a "great job" with the kids at the school.
The West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission has steadfastly refused to push for any relaxation of this rule in the past, and we doubt if Henderson's complaint will receive much sympathy with that organization.
However, a slight change to the law should be considered. When coaching jobs are first posted, teachers should still be given the first hired. However, if someone outside the school system has to be hired, that person should not automatically lose the job the following year. Like professional personnel, lay coaches should be evaluated on their overall job performance. If school administrators do not think the lay coach is doing a good job, of course the job should be reposted.
However, if the lay coach is teaching the sport and being a good role model for the kids, he or she should not lose out because that job now looks attractive to a school employee.