Coaches, ADs go unpaid in latest glitch

City schools hope return of Wade assistant helps expedite payment process

'That's no way to run a business'

Winter bus problems likely over, official says

February 14, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City schools officials have temporarily reassigned Ruth Jackson to the department of athletics so that athletic directors, winter coaches and basketball referees can get paid soon.

Jackson, an assistant in the department for 23 years, was transferred on Jan. 5, and many ADs pointed to her transfer as the beginning of the payment problems.

Yesterday, Jackson was back in the office of Bob Wade, coordinator of athletics for the city schools, helping to expedite the payment process.

As a result, ADs and staff coaches, who did not receive their monthly athletic stipends yesterday as scheduled, and basketball officials, who have not been paid since mid-December, should receive checks within the next 10 days, said Vanessa C. Pyatt, city schools spokeswoman.

In addition, Pyatt said, Bonnie Copeland, city schools chief executive officer, met with Valencia Baker, director of pupil transportation, Wade and other high-level schools officials Thursday to address why there aren't enough buses designated to transport athletes to games. Pyatt said there should be no more late or no-show buses for the rest of the winter season.

The Sun reported Thursday that this season had been fraught with financial and transportation troubles, from some coaches being paid three weeks late to some teams being stranded at away games.

The latest - and what city schools officials hope will be the last - glitch occurred yesterday when ADs and staff coaches from the 20 city high schools did not receive their stipends. For most coaches, that amounted to a little more than $1,000.

Basketball coaches receive a seasonal stipend of $3,374, which is broken into three monthly installments. All other winter coaches are paid $3,013. The $4,379 stipend for ADs is spread over the school year.

Several ADs said Wade had warned the coaches not to expect the money yesterday, so most of them were not surprised. But they weren't happy.

"We have lives, families and bills just like everybody else. That's what people forget about," said Donna Bowers, Patterson's swimming coach and assistant AD. "We keep doing it for the kids, which you can do to an extent. But when they tell you they don't know when you're going to get paid - that's no way to run a business."

Poly AD Mark Schlenoff and Forest Park AD Obie Barnes, as well as Wayne Randall, who assigns officials to girls and boys basketball games in the city, were among those who said no payment problems existed until Jackson left the department.

Jackson's reassignment to another office came as part of a shake-up in which 700 teachers and other staffers were laid off to alleviate the schools system's $58 million deficit, Pyatt said. But once Jackson left, the whole payment process broke down, the ADs said.

Pyatt said that all paperwork should be completed this weekend and that ADs, coaches and referees should get paid within the next 10 days.

The ADs said they want Jackson's return to Wade's office made permanent. Pyatt, however, said no decision had been made.

"The Human Resources Department is reviewing the workload in the athletic office and as soon as that is completed, more permanent staffing adjustments may be made," she said, adding that the review should be completed within a week.

While Pyatt said there should be no more bus problems this winter, the season is winding down. Swimming is over and track has only the state finals on Monday and Tuesday remaining. With those sports over, the demand for buses will ease.

The spring season, however, has a history of widespread bus problems. With eight sports, up from five in the winter, spring seasons put the greatest drain on the bus fleet.

Copeland, however, plans to work with Wade and chief operating officer Carlton Epps on a plan to keep problems from recurring, Pyatt said.

The new plan for spring might involve changing starting times for some games, Pyatt said. Although she had no other details, she said a plan should be in place "on or about Feb. 20" to give ADs plenty of time to make adjustments.

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