By Jordan Cohen
Two members of the board of education were not happy with a recommendation to pay more than $49,000 to Brian Shaner, the new head football coach, as a social studies teacher at Niles McKinley High School. The board, however, approved the hiring Wednesday in a split vote.
Shortly after the start of the meeting, the board recessed to executive session for more than 40 minutes. Members admitted afterward the session was about Shaner’s salary.
On the teacher salary schedule, Shaner’s pay is based on his master’s degree and 10 years of experience.
Shaner did not attend the board meeting.
“This is not a personal issue — it’s a money issue,” said Susan Longacre, the only board member to vote against the recommendation of Superintendent Mark Robinson.
Board member Christopher Doutt abstained, but said he agreed with Longacre that the vote was not personal against Shaner.
The three remaining board members voted in favor.
The district, which has been under fiscal watch since 2003, avoided a possible declaration of fiscal emergency by laying off teachers and nonteaching staff.
Robinson said he was part of a three-member committee that recommended Shaner out of 11 applicants interviewed for the position. Robinson said that no promise had been made to the coach about any teaching employment.
“At the time, we told him we would not have a position for him, but that was before [his predecessor] decided to retire,” Robinson said. The superintendent noted that the now retired teacher, Steve Papalas, who is also a Niles councilman, earned considerably more than Shaner’s salary.
“We’re actually saving $13,653.00 from what Papalas was paid,” Robinson said.
Robinson also said Shaner and the other five assistant football coaches gave up a percentage of their coaching pay so the school could hire two more assistants.
Robinson did not have the percentage amount immediately available.
Shaner will be paid $7,219 as varsity head coach.
Nonetheless, Mary Ann McMahon, president of the Niles Education Association, the teachers bargaining unit, said she was not happy with the decision.
“In 14 months of negotiations, they told us there was no money, so this is a concern for us,” McMahon said. “There have been a number of qualified people such as substitutes who could have been hired for less.”
McMahon said none of the laid-off teachers qualified for the social studies position.
There was, however, some good news for the NEA. The board voted to recall five of nine laid-off instructors. The positions opened due to retirements, resignations and enrollment changes, according to the superintendent. The board also voted to recall one bus driver.
Meanwhile, the board received an offer of free agency services and no commission from its former health insurance broker until May 2013. John Ruberto of Niles said he had been the district’s broker for seven years until the board voted to move the plan to an out-of-town broker as of last June.
“I would like to do my part to help the Niles City School District in these trying times,” Ruberto said.
Robinson said the board likely will meet in executive session to discuss Ruberto’s offer.