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January 12. 2013 11:30PM

In city's search for coaches, teachers get first look

MANCHESTER - The school athletics department will give greater preference to teachers in filling coaching positions over applicants who are not teachers in the district.

The policy, approved by the school board's Athletics Committee on Tuesday, represents a departure from the past practice of hiring coaches from outside the district who were deemed more qualified than local teachers.

The president of the Manchester Education Association, Ben Dick, stressed that the teachers' contract requires that "qualified" teachers are to be first in line for coaching jobs.

Dick said the contract establishes a "clear order": the jobs are to be first offered to qualified teachers in the same building where there is the coaching vacancy, then to qualified teachers at other schools in the district.

"If you follow that, Human Resources should be handling vetting the applications, and no non-teacher should get an interview until H.R. determines that there's no qualified candidates in the pool," Dick said. "What's been happening for years is that applicants have been bypassing H.R."

The most immediate consequence of the change is that the job of varsity baseball coach at Manchester High School Central will be reposted.

Athletics Director Dave Gosselin had intended to promote the team's current junior varsity coach, Mike Cotter, who is a paraprofessional but not a teacher at the school, as well as an alumnus. Paraprofessionals do not belong to the teachers union.

A teacher in the district who was passed over for the job objected, and this prompted the review of the policy.

The change last week was a victory of sorts for school board member Art Beaudry, who had argued for several years that the district was flouting the contract by routinely hiring coaches from outside the district. "I think our people - if they're qualified to coach - should be able to get the job, without getting an outsider. They're giving their heart and soul to the kids all day along." Beaudry said. "If a teacher is coaching in their own school, they're going to see the kids throughout the day and make sure the kids are on track."

Gosselin, the athletics director, has argued that his highest priority is to find qualified coaches. "I'm concerned that someone from outside that maybe has a strong background will be overlooked to hire a qualified teacher," he said. "I think we want to get the players the best possible person to be their coach. Sometimes good teachers don't make good coaches, and vice versa."

But, Gosselin said, he would follow the new directive from the school board subcommittee and the superintendent's office. "We need to follow the teachers' contract," he said. "Teachers need to get first dibs to all positions."

Gosselin said he wasn't sure whether he should interview all in-house candidates first and only look at outsiders if there wasn't a qualified inside choice.

"To me, it just lends to more confusion," he said.

He said different people can disagree over what the term "qualified" means?

Gosselin said the Athletics Committee wants to avoid potential grievances from teachers who believe they were unfairly passed over.

"To me, it's a sham," Gosselin said. "If we do interview four (candidates) and we feel the outside (one) is more qualified, are we going to have to go through the same circus because there was three teachers" from within the district who applied?

Beaudry said he wasn't sure that the focus on "qualified" applicants was always used to hire the best coaches. "Who they say is qualified is too subjective to me. If they don't like you, all of the sudden you're not qualified," he said.

Along with the varsity baseball coach position at Central, the district has several other coaching vacancies to fill.

The teachers union contract has required coaching positions to be offered first to members of the bargaining unit since ratification of the 1985-88 agreement.

In a January 2012 letter to Superintendent Thomas Brennan, Dick said that the contract "does not state that the position has to be offered to a teacher who is not qualified just because the teacher has applied."

Staff Writers Michael Cousineau and Bill Smith contributed to this article. Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.





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