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Thursday, July 17th, 2008

To coach or not to coach, that's the question

By Janie Southard
ROCKFORD - A controversy, centered on Parkway school administrators also serving as coaches, will go to committee following a board of education meeting this week.
Elementary Principal Mark Esselstein told board members Tuesday he does not feel it is fair to deny him the softball coaching position this year - a position he had held for seven years.
At last month's school board meeting, board member Bob Ransbottom requested that newly hired high school Principal Brian Fortkamp no longer be permitted to hold his position as assistant football coach. Fortkamp agreed to accept those terms.
Esselstein said he is now being asked not to coach, which involves a pay cut of $4,500. He said it was made clear in a verbal agreement seven years ago that the board would permit him to coach along with his administrative position.
"It's not necessarily the money. It was Brian's choice to accept your offer. I don't see that his choice to give up coaching has anything to do with me being a coach," Esselstein said. "I am forced to keep (my workload) organized and I do ... To my knowledge, there have been no complaints about me. Softball was never brought up in my evaluations by the board. If there are other things involved in this, I'd like to know what they are."
He also pointed out that when a former elementary principal left, the board made "no big deal" of him having to take on those extra duties of two schools located 9 miles apart.
"I am just asking the board to let me do what I've done for seven years. I have never been told by anyone that softball was interfering with my responsibilities as principal," he said.
Esselstein's wife, Ann, who briefly attended the board meeting, pointed out that former administrators had coached various sports.
"This is not fair to the students ... We would not have had cross country (teams) if administrators couldn't coach," she said.
Board President Dana Smith said he could see that coaching could affect administration duties.
"I'd like to see the personnel committee (Ransbottom and Randy Shellabarger) take this and make a recommendation to the board," Smith said.
Board member Betty DuBry said she has "never had a problem" with Esselstein coaching.
"I would assume if we make a new policy that Mark would be grandfathered in," DuBry said.
Shellabarger also advocated that the board "let him coach."
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