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Latham: In some places, coach ranks higher than king

Dec. 27, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Often, you'll see a newspaper headline that begins something like, "Community divided over … " followed by just about anything because towns are typically divided over just about everything from taxes and roads to whether that bad smell in the air is a positive or negative.

It is difficult to think of a topic that will not cause a dividing line somewhere. I've reported on all the above, including the smell issue twice.

But we apparently have found such a topic in Carthage, where it seems the entire populace is in agreement that football coach Scott Surratt should have been given a $21,000 raise in the midst of other cuts to education. Nor does it seem to matter that Carthage ISD is operating on a budget that is eating away at its fund balance.

The community also appears to be unanimous in its opinion that the News-Journal was full of beans for publishing a story about the situation. How dare the newspaper write about the way an area school district spends its money?

For shame! Probably nothing up there but a bunch of liberal snowflakes who get squeamish at the sight of a form tackle.

What's worse is that other news outlets have been clued in. The Texas Tribune wrote an in-depth story that went out to newspapers across the state. Bulldogs may not see anything odd about giving the coach a raise during tight times, but across the state, that is the kind of thing that raises hackles.

The laughable part of the Tribune story came in a quote from Carthage ISD Superintendent Glenn Hambrick, who suggested Surratt had paid for his own raise because the state sent the district a check for $32,000 after winning the state championship last year.

Really? A whole $32,000? You can't help but wonder how much extra expense the district incurred in meals, transportation and other costs to take all the people involved (including the band, cheerleaders and drill team) to playoff games.

The guess here is that it was much more than $32,000.

High school sports don't pay for themselves, and they should not have to, either. The students involved are getting a real educational benefit — to a point. I say this as the father of a son who played in two state championship football games. I love high school sports.

School administrators are sometimes their own worst enemies, though. That $32,000 could have been used for any purpose from buying crayons to upgrading computers.

Either one of those would have been a better educational use of the money than giving the coach a raise, which does nothing but benefit the coach and his family. Not one student will get anything more for that money spent.

On the other hand, it could be that teachers of core subject areas might look at this as an opportunity to finally get paid what they are worth.

Don't settle for being merely a teacher, they might be realizing, be a "coach."

I wonder how much the district would pay for a topflight geometry coach? Or maybe a grammar coach would earn more, or a biology coach, or writing coach, or a history coach.

I can just see a literature coach walking up and down the classroom, headset on, calling the plays as he goes.

"Gimme, 'Julius Caesar,' Act 2, Scene 2, and do it now," he might say. "If you want to win in life you have to get through Shakespeare first."

It probably wouldn't work but at least in Carthage it would be worth a try.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email



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