How coaches are hired in the St. Louis County School District is coming under scrutiny after the decision to replace a popular head baseball coach at North Woods. The process deserves another look.
In Dan Manick’s case, part of the question is why the district deviated from established protocols. Baseball coaches have been traditionally hired near the end of the winter sports season, but North Woods posted the job opening in June — well ahead of its normal schedule. That’s problematic. Schools aren’t open in June and most people would be unlikely to see the posting in the school at that time. Although coach openings are also on the school’s website, most would be unlikely to search there in June for a coaching job the following spring, particularly given the district’s past practice at its schools.
Although timing of the posting arouses suspicions, we also are concerned about the process used to evaluate coaching candidates. How much emphasis is placed on a team’s success and what other factors — such as a coach’s past history and rapport with students — are considered? So far as we’ve seen, the board gets very little feedback beyond the recommendation from athletic directors.
By most accounts, Manick was rated highly by parents and students as a coach. Not only did he bring a wealth of baseball knowledge to the program, but he also demonstrated his dedication to students and served as a good role model.
Manick and others suspect that he is being barred from serving as head coach for an incident that occurred last season when he transported students in the back of an open pickup truck. That episode forced his resignation as head coach last season and Manick has acknowledged the error and apologized for it. But the incident shouldn’t result in a lifetime ban from coaching, as Manick fears it has.
Although Manick’s case has some unique characteristics, a review could help ensure a fairer process for all hiring decisions on coaches. It could help establish clear guidelines for rating coaches and give school board members more details on which to base their acceptance or rejection of a coaching recommendation.
The present system has raised allegations in the past that it’s a “good old boys network” and that it’s who you know and not what you know that matters most.
We’re not casting aspersions on any current or former coaches, but the fact remains that the current decision-making process, rubberstamped by the school board, fuels speculation. That’s not good for coaches or the school district.
Every coaching candidate deserves a fair shot at the job and the best way to ensure that happens is to put rules in place that make the process consistent. The first place to start is to ensure that postings are done on a regular schedule. We would also suggest that openings be listed in sites in addition to the schools such as area post offices to ensure that all who may be interested in coaching school sports have a chance to find out about opportunities.
While this review may have been sparked by the controversy over replacing Manick as head baseball coach, it can benefit the entire process of selecting coaches. After all, it’s tough to make the right call if the rules aren’t consistent across the district.