I was in a friendly debate a few years back with an aunt and uncle that live elsewhere in Georgia about teachers and coaches "retiring" and continuing to work in their local school system. They clearly were not keen on such an idea because they assumed that this arrangement cost the local school board a lot of tax money. They even suggested hiring younger, less experienced educators that would be cheaper than experienced ones at the top end of the pay scale.
Since most school systems need teachers in numbers well beyond their state allotment, my suggestion to my kin was to get used to it. They were unaware that this type arrangement was occurring in school systems all over the state. The bottom line is that young people entering the profession are staying only a few years and running for cover like skinned cats. Without teachers and coaches willing to continue part time after they become fully vested in the retirement system many schools would literally not have enough qualified folks to operate.
I've started to hear this same question here in Thomson of late, particularly when it comes to coaches. I'm also hearing, "Why does every coach's wife also have to be given a job?"
Here are a few simple facts as I know them that might help clear up some of these questions. First of all, Thomson High athletic director and head football coach Luther Welsh is indeed drawing a retirement check from the teacher retirement system. So is head baseball coach Terry Holder. Both of these men contributed their share into the system for years and so did the school systems that they worked for.
While these gentlemen are indeed collecting from their retirement accounts, their earned right, I wouldn't call them retired. They both have the desire to continue working in their assigned roles, and the McDuffie County Board of Education has seen fit to employ them in what is technically considered "part time" positions. Around the state coaches and teachers doing this are commonly called 49 percent employees, and it is a legal practice.
While it is public record, I don't know what Coaches Welsh and Holder are being paid, and I don't care. For my money, whatever it is, we are getting an all-time bargain. How else do you think our school system could have two men of this caliber, reputation and experience in the fold? Are these coaches working part-time hours? No! Part-time, I believe, is less than 40 hours per week. Welsh and Holder haven't seen less than 40 hours in a week in a coon's age.
Arrangements like this, whether it is coaches, teachers, or administrators, are a good deal for all involved. The school system pays the individual only for the job, not by a pay scale, and it is responsible for no benefits. It doesn't have to match the teacher's contribution to any insurance program or retirement plan. It is a win-win situation. Why would anyone gripe about that?
I also like the fact that Coach Welsh and Coach Holder are not in a position that they have to be afraid of, or for, their jobs. Their lot in life is secure. They do not have to worry about the political pressure that often accompanies high profile positions like the ones they hold. If they need to discipline a kid, so be it. When they determine their starting lineups, so be it. Their job is to build a solid program and not worry about if they are keeping Mr. and Mrs. So and So happy.
I came to Thomson in 1991 as an assistant football and baseball coach and high school health and P.E teacher. I assume they wanted me because they offered me the job. My wife also was a teacher, and as luck would have it the system had an opening that she could fit into. The same exact thing happened in my two prior stops in Liberty and Screven counties. School systems generally have several openings every year and don't have to create jobs for coach's wives. If they don't have the right opening, the coach and his wife have to make their employment decision based on that fact.
Like everybody that works with her would say, I can promise you that when the McDuffie County school system hired Gene and Pam Walker, getting Pam was the real find. She was a well-trained and experienced teacher and now a fantastic school counselor. I again must assume they wouldn't keep her around if she weren't.
There have been, and there will be, other coach and teacher combinations that become employed by our school system. My experience has been that coaches' wives that teach are excellent in what they do because they are generally adaptable to new situations and dedicated to children. The system is not doing them a favor, but in reality they are becoming huge contributors to the system. It also happens this way with band directors, administrators and just plain teachers.
My points here are that if you want to find something to beef about, I really think you can do better than "retired" coaches still working and coach's wives being "given" jobs. Athletics are important in a school system whether you like it or not. McDuffie County is not the only school system in the world that deploys these hiring practices. The commitment has been made here by the community and the school board to have the very best available coaches and teachers. This is a very logical way to meet that goal.
I can't imagine why anyone would be willing to settle for mediocrity when Thomson can get the best for what really is a song when you consider what these "retirees" have to offer. There are even more top-notch coaches here nearing the time when they can draw their pension benefits. If they chose to do so, I would hope we have enough sense to make it work. And if the next new coach that is hired has a spouse that is half the teacher that my wife was, we better grab them, and quick.