OROVILLE – With scant warning and little chance for public comment, Oroville’s School Board terminated all district coaching contracts for next school year as part of a multi-item consent agenda.
The last minute agenda item was an addition to previously released agendas and coaches and the public were caught off guard when it was approved at the Monday, March 30 school board meeting.
The motion approving the wholesale termination reads, “Move to approve motion 3.30.086AD termination of all athletic coaching staff until district revenues have been used to create the district budget for the school year 2009 through 2010. All extracurricular activities will be reviewed during the budgeting process to determine which programs can be funded. Coaching staff that cannot be funded for the 2009 to 2010 school year will be placed in a hiring pool for 16 months pursuant to OCA contract.”
Chuck Ricevuto, president of the Oroville Coaches’ Association, said he knew something was up, but thought the coaches and community would get a chance to give their input. Ricevuto, who is also the longest serving coach on the district staff, has been coaching wrestling ever since the program began at Oroville 34 years ago.
“I knew something was coming and I had lobbied some of the school board who I thought would at least look at what the coaches were offering. I thought they listened to us and were going to give us that chance… I never thought they would take such drastic action, especially since nothing like this was on the original agenda,” Ricevuto said.
Prior to the board’s decision, the OCA had proposed 11 items they felt would offset the budget deficit faced by the school district. The proposal recommends:
1.Suspend all c-squads,
2.Suspend separate JV travel, except for football;
3.Cheerleaders at home events only unless they travel with the respective team at no extra cost to the district;
4.Travel limitations of 175 miles unless van(s) and/or school car can be utilized;
5.Combine junior high events;
6.Suspend post-season incentive pay;
7.Each sport will develop its own support club to offset a lot of minor expenses including post-season costs;
8.The coaches, along with the athletic director to develop “one” central location for post-season events with rotating share of gate and concessions;
9.Raise gate fees;
10.Institute a pay to play for all three sports seasons with help coming from each sports support club for those kids in financial need; and
11.All coaches are willing to temporarily suspend a portion of their salary to further aide in the offsetting of budget cuts.
“The OCA is ready to work with the Oroville Boosters, the District and especially the community to “roll up our sleeves’ and make sacrifices to maintain all present sports and restore High School Wrestling Cheerleading and Junior High Cheerleading,” write the coaches in a statement they all agreed to.
The OCA estimated the proposal would save the school district approximately $100,000 which comes mainly from giving up a portion of their salaries.
Ricevuto thinks the move to terminate all the coaching positions might be retribution on the district’s part for grievances the association has filed on behalf of some of its members. He said school board member Verle Rowton said as much at the meeting.
“I can’t give you the details, but I can tell you we have been successful in all but one grievance so I think that shows they have not been without merit,” said Ricevuto.
The coach says the 16-month pool could be a way of eliminating coaches permanently if the district goes for two years without resolving the funding issue.
“It says 16 months for the pool, but everyone knows it’s a two year situation so that takes us, whoever is in the pool, right out of the picture and they’re very aware of that,” Ricevuto said.
“What else can it be as we already have a clause in our contract that reads “If due to a lack of funding or inadequate numbers of participants the activity may be discontinued.'”
Ricevuto asks, “If that’s on every contract why would they need to terminate everyone now. If they are truly worried about union reprisals haven’t they already covered it in our contracts? Doesn’t this really invite reprisals?”
The coach is particularly frustrated by Superintendent Ernie Bartelson who he says asked the coaches to be patient.
“He sent out an email that said eventually they would talk to the OCA, OEA (Oroville Education Association) and the community for their input. He said we need to see solid figures before we make any decisions… so why did they do this?”
Ricevuto said the coaches’ union only files a grievance if the members feel someone’s contract has been violated. He adds that the union only brings a grievance if the members agree that one exists.
“Our union doesn’t even charge dues. The only thing we do is a fund-raiser and we use all the money we make for scholarships,” Ricevuto said.
The veteran coach realizes that Oroville’s school district is in a unique position because the state has been taking away levy equalization monies as the district’s property valuation increases. This combined with threatened cuts of 25 percent or more from the state for basic education, has caused deep concerns about the district’s financial future.
“Doesn’t that $100,000 savings package the OCA is proposing count for something? That’s from the coaches’ union, not from me. The board is scapegoating the union… making it look like it’s the cause of the problem it finds itself in,” Ricevuto said. “I’ve not said a negative word for 34 years to the newspaper… I can’t hold off any more.”