By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – High school sports always stir up a lot of community interest and the recent news that the Blue Devils head coach was leaving really got the town talking.
The announcement that Trent Hammond has been hired by the Franklin County School System as their new head football coach generated more than 40 comments on the Herald website within the first few days.
The topic is also being hashed out on the Scout.com website that is a partner of FoxSports.com on the Microsoft Network. The comments there appear to come from coaches and others familiar with the Water Valley football program.
Some have questioned the hiring process and who would make the decision on the new head coach.
Superintendent Sammy Higdon of the Water Valley School District said that he will not be involved with hiring Hammond’s replacement. Higdon’s son Trea is a coach at WVHS and has applied for the head coach position.
“I am out of the process and have been. Not only this time, but I was out of the process last time” Superintendent Higdon said. “I won’t even do the recommendation, the committee will do the recommendation,” he added.
The committee is WVHS Principal Glen Kitchens and District Athletic Director Gary Drewery. They will make the recommendation to the school board.
Kitchens said that the announcement for the position instructed applicants to submit their paperwork to Associate Superintendent Anthony Barnes. “That was for the purpose of them coming to one central place.”
The job had been posted through Wednesday, March 5, according to Kitchens who added that 18 or 19 applications had been received.
Kitchens said he checked to see if the applicants met the criteria. “I looked to see if they were certified teachers. I do have to ask for a helper to talk to them about – in this case – football because I would not be able to make a good decision about that.”
Kitchens acknowledged he needed help from Drewery who has the sports expertise. “I wouldn’t have to do that with music because I was a musician and I can take care of that myself. But, I have always gotten a helper since I have been in this district when I was hiring a sports position.”
The salary for the new head coach is the base salary set by the state plus the local supplement, Kitchens explained. “For example, if a person has ten years experience and a masters degree you just go to that line on the teachers pay scale and that’s the base.”
The state department of education and the legislature require that every school district supplement the state base pay. The amount varies from as little as $100 to several thousand dollars per year.
In the Water Valley School District, supplements ranges from $350 to $650 per year based on the level of certification. “There is a variance between pay here and Lafayette and there is a variance between Lafayette and Oxford. It is just because of that local economy. There is no formula for that,” Kitchens said.
A teacher in Mississippi in their first year with no experience and “A” certification (no master’s degree) would make $30,900. In Water Valley $350 would be added to that.
There are also supplements for educators with extra duties involving cheerleading, band, coaching, etc. According to Kitchens, each district determines those supplements since there are no state guidelines.
“They can be handled in two ways,” he said. “One, just an amount of money or, two, extra contract days.”
He gave the example that a base teacher in Mississippi works for 187 contract days. If the district determines that a coach needs to work for 210 contract days, then those days have to be paid as workdays above the base.
Kitchens also explained how school systems cooperate with each other during the hiring process. “We’re working with Franklin County at this time because Coach Hammond is already there,” he said.
“You can usually work out with the other school for that person to come and be with you for a good portion of spring break football training,” he said. “Schools are very easy with each other on those sorts of things.”
Kitchens said that Water Valley would like to have a head coach in place for the spring football season that begins the final week of April. “They have a three week spring football season and then have a spring game. Spring football comes with a lot of objectives.”
“There’s time to do that and not be rushed,” Kitchens added. “We’ve got a few weeks if we need it.”
For additional information about Hammond’s move, please click on this story from the Natchez Democrat: