Extra pay schedule OK’d; Title IX concerns voiced

Knost will speak to attorneys about Fedorchak’s concerns

By Kari Williams

The Mehlville Board of Education unanimously approved the framework for its instructional and athletic additional compensation schedule, despite one board member raising Title IX concerns.

Board member Ron Fedorchak told the board there are “a lot of disparities” in compensation on the athletics side regarding Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in educational settings.

“Basically, the compensation has to be equal for equal sports, and basically for the most part it is,” he said. “Where it falls off would be softball/baseball. Those need to be addressed … They should be on the same level. That’s a Title IX issue.”

The compensation schedule has the head baseball coach earning a higher stipend than the head softball coach.

Head baseball coach positions earn a stipend from $3,928 to $4,714, depending on the coach’s step on the pay scale. Head softball coach positions earn a stipend from $3,214 to $3,857, depending on the coach’s step on the pay scale.

The two sports are “generally linked,” according to Fedorchak, because of the similarities.

At the July 26 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Eric Knost said he was not aware Fedorchak was going to ask about the pay difference, so he was unable to talk to the district attorneys.

“I would ask you to allow me to do that … because I would like to think it’s not a Title IX violation or we wouldn’t be doing it, but I’ve got to research that,” Knost said.

The district is “heavily scrutinized” about Title IX, according to Knost, and “almost always” follows the law accordingly.

“I just need to find the rationale out for that, and I don’t know that right now because I didn’t know that question was coming,” Knost said.

Fedorchak also noted federal courts have ruled “that (cheerleading, spirit and dance lines) are not athletics. They have to be listed in instructional and supervisory.”

“Schools were moving cheerleading and spirit and dance lines into athletics to be able to cut other programs to make sure they could keep their numbers up and still meet Title IX requirements,” Fedorchak said. “… (That) decision came down in July 2010.”

Knost said the district’s attorneys receive a board book and “don’t hesitate to call me when they see an issue.”

“We expect them to do that. Every year we have conversations about Title IX. We always review, and our attorneys review and they always tell us we are not in violation …,” Knost said.

Fedorchak proposed postponing approval of the additional compensation until Knost could discuss the issue with the district’s attorneys.

Board member Rich Franz said he agreed with Fedorchak that approval should be postponed to give Knost time to consult with attorneys.

But Board Secretary Larry Felton said he was “more inclined” to approve the compensation because it is a “correctable error.”

If necessary, the board could modify the compensation at its August meeting, according to board President Venki Palamand.

Even with a split vote, Knost said he would like the compensation to be approved — and the board voted unanimously to do so.

As of Aug. 2, Knost told the Call he had not received a response from attorneys, but he is still “extremely confident” in what he said at the board meeting.

“I don’t have an answer, but I full anticipate once the attorneys look at what we’re offering, how we’re offering, I don’t know why it would change from last year to this year,” he said.

The board also unanimously approved an additional compensation schedule for other professionals. Funding for the approved schedules already was included in the district’s budget.