Portsmouth’s policy on hiring coaches debated

The late Richard "Foxy" Marshall. The late Richard "Foxy" Marshall.

PORTSMOUTH —  Should a popular and successful school coach have to reapply for his or her job every few years?

That was among the questions that came up Tuesday night during the School Committee’s lively discussion regarding the district’s policy on hiring athletic coaches. Although several officials said coaching jobs are annual positions that are open to all, in practice that hasn’t always been the case.

“Not all the coaches hired in the past five, 10 years have gone through the evaluation process,” said Supt. Lynn Krizic, adding that she favored allowing evaluations during re-appointments.

Committee member Emily Copeland agreed. “Every four or five years we should be saying these positions are open. They’re not an automatic renewal,” she said, adding that “we need a little freshness in the system.”

High school Principal Robert Littlefield said he hopes no one is “under the impression that we have stacks and stacks of applications for all of these 49 coaching positions.” Sometimes, he said, “it’s borderline coercion” on his and Athletic Director Stephen Trezvant’s part to hire a coach. The job doesn’t pay much and coaches hear many complaints from parents, he said.

Not everyone agreed with having to make longtime coaches reapply for their jobs.

“I am so opposed to this — having a situation every year where you attach an air of uncertainty to the coaches who are doing their jobs,” said resident Kathleen Melvin.

Joseph Quinn, Little Compton’s non-voting representative on the School Committee, said he’d hate to see “legendary coaches” have to keep reapplying for their positions. When you tell someone you’re re-posting their job, “it’s not exactly a vote of confidence,” he said.

Would ‘Foxy’ reapply?

Resident Craig Clark, however, said the district “owes it to students and the community” to keep the coaching jobs open.

The late Richard "Foxy" Marshall.

The late Richard “Foxy” Marshall.

“If ‘Foxy’ Marshall was still coach of the football team, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would apply for that position,” Mr. Clark said, referring to the late Richard Marshall, whose PHS teams won six state Super Bowl championships.

Still, he added, Mr. Marshall would keep applying for the job because he loved coaching so much.

Ms. Copeland agreed, adding that it’s not an “insult” to ask coaches to go through an evaluation process again. If that means someone won’t reapply for the job, “I wonder how much do they really want to do this?” she asked.

Committee Chairman David Croston said whatever the committee decides, “We absolutely must have an HR policy that validates this.”

The committee voted to direct Dr. Krizic to report back at a later date with recommendations on the hiring policy.

Background checks

During the debate over school coach hirings, Supt. Lynn Krizic revealed that there is no “explicit” language that requires background checks of successful applicants.

“It’s never been the case” that all coaches must go through a background check, Dr. Krizic told the School Committee Tuesday night. She said it should be made clear to all new hires that they’re subject to such scrutiny.

The news took several people by surprise, including Committee Chairman David Croston.

“A parent can’t walk through the door without a background check but we can hire a coach without a background check?” he asked.

Committee member Frederick Faerber said he was “shocked” that background checks were not already in place.

In voting to ask the superintendent to report back with recommendations on the hiring policy, the committee also directed her to include language in the policy that required the background checks.

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