LHSOA

History of Louisiana High School Officials’ Compensation

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Organization Abbreviations:

PA: Louisiana Principals Association, all principals in Louisiana with athletic programs under the LHSAA

LHSAA EC: LHSAA Executive Committee, governing body made up of principals, coaches, athletic directors and others from education sector (officials have no representation)

SOC: LHSAA Sports Officiating Committee, ad hoc committee created by LHSAA EC

LHSOA EC: LHSOA Executive Committee, 21 officials representing all sports by region; LHSAA Director of Officials is a non-voting, ad-hoc member 

Officials’ compensation has for decades been governed by the LHSAA Handbook, which, per Section 7 of the Constitution contained therein, can only be amended by a vote of the PA. Amendments to the Handbook are generally only considered at the LHSAA Annual Meeting held in January. Details of rules governing officiating, including compensation, are included in Section 8 of the By-Laws in the Handbook.

25 Year Chronology of Action and Inaction Affecting Officials

January 2006: LHSAA Annual Meeting: Proposals to raise fees for all sports through separate amendments to Section 8 of LHSAA Handbook were submitted for consideration; PA tabled all amendments with no votes taken

January 2007: LHSAA Annual Meeting: Again, separate amendments to raise each sport’s officials’ pay were tabled by PA with no votes taken

January 2007: In response to above inaction by PA, basketball officials in two associations threatened to walk out. In response, LHSAA leadership told officials a special session of the PA would be called to reconsider pay increases. In addition, officials were told there would be annual sessions to discuss pay and potential increases would be brought to vote. Kenny Henderson was the LHSAA Executive Director-elect. He spearheaded a series of ad-hoc committee meetings with each sport having its own committee. Committees included 3 or 4 officials and 6-8 principals.

These committees looked at the then existing pay and the surrounding states pay and concluded the following:

  • Louisiana officials’ pay trailed other states and something should be done
  • It would be difficult for the schools to catch up pay deficiencies in one year
  • An acceptable plan would be to raise pay immediately and also lock in $3.00 pay raises every two years through 2012 (increases in years 2009 and 2011)
  • At the end of 2012, pay would again be evaluated and possibly another significant adjustment would be considered, if appropriate
  • Other concerns would also be considered including game security, travel, and lodging for playoff games where over 3 hours travel were involved.

It was agreed the above items would be presented at a special called meeting of the PA in June 2007 to gain approval. Officials agreed with this and agreed to work the rest of the season. Also at that time the parties representing the schools agreed to create funding for officials’ training aids, camps, video equipment, etc. to help improve officiating.

March 2007: The LHSAA EC met and deleted the bi-annual raises from the proposal, also, there was no mention of improvement tools or any funding for such

June 2007: The 2007 pay raise was approved in a special called PA meeting

June 2009: The LHSOA was formed and immediately began hosting training camps and pursuing other opportunities to improve officiating

2010: The LHSAA EC appointed an ad hoc committee to look at officials pay; after a series of meetings that included review of officials pay in the southeast, an agreement to raise pay was reached between principals and officials on the committee. All principals on the committee agreed they would help promote passage of this increase in officials’ fees.

January 2011: LHSAA Annual Meeting: the PA overwhelmingly rejected the above agreed-to pay increase with no principal speaking in favor of it

The afternoon (Friday) of the PA vote, the LHSOA EC had a scheduled meeting and was informed that Kenny Henderson had a back up plan. The message was please do not call for a work stoppage until you hear the plan. During the LHSOA EC meeting, a hand written note was delivered that said finish working the season and we will have a committee look at this and try to get an increase passed next year or in a special session. If you choose to not work games we will sue you.

On the next day, Saturday, a conference call was held among basketball officials’ association presidents and it was decided that many basketball officials would not work beginning the following Tuesday night unless the pay raise was immediately put into effect.

On the following Monday, basketball officials across the state stopped accepting game assignments. On that same day, the President of the LHSOA, Bryan Greenwood, was contacted by members of the LHSAA EC to see if something could be worked out. Bryan only agreed to negotiate in a public forum where media was invited to record what was promised and agreed to in that meeting.

On Wednesday a special meeting was called between the LHSAA EC and the LHSOA EC. It was agreed in that meeting that there would be a special called meeting of the PA in June to vote on the exact proposals that the principals had rejected at January Annual Meeting the previous week, with two exceptions. Football clock operators had been left out of the first proposal and also fees for volleyball officials were not raised in playoff games. The ad-hoc committee had agreed to both items but they had been left off the January ballot. Also it was agreed that the LHSAA EC would create a seat its committee for an official. They agreed that it was important for officials to be represented and give insight to the LHSAA leadership about items affecting officials. It was also agreed that the system had to be changed as it was obvious with a twenty-year history that no principal was going to vote to approve an increase in his expenses by raising officials’ fees. It was agreed that a better process would be to work out issues like pay within LHSAA committees and then put the agreed-to fees in the LHSAA Handbook.

June 2011: The PA approved the above agreed-to pay increases. No action was taken on any other issue discussed including putting an official on the LHSAA EC.

2013: The SOC was formed by the LHSAA EC, an ad-hoc committee made up of principals, ADs, coaches, LHSAA staff and three officials, including the President of the LHSOA. The committee was tasked with looking at officials’ issues including pay, testing, travel, assignment secretaries’ pay, and lodging for officials, among other things.

October 2014: The President of the LHSOA submitted a proposal to the SOC, crafted by the LHSOA EC that included modest raises in pay for all seven LHSOA sports. The school representatives on the SOC immediately rejected the proposal noting that the PA would never agree to raise fees in all sports at one time. After a lengthy discussion, the SOC school representatives agreed that they could support raises in basketball and volleyball, but the requested $10.00/official increases would have to be cut in half to $5.00. In addition, the SOC passed a motion to consider increases for other sports officials at their October, 2016 meeting. Officials on the committee were not pleased with this outcome but with only three votes, they had no choice but to accept it or no officials would see any raises. The structure of the SOC rendered the officials essentially powerless.

January 2015: LHSAA Annual Meeting: the PA soundly rejected both $5.00 pay increases. Each pay increase was separately proposed, with a principal from the SOC introducing each by saying “we propose this increase for officials, our officials are the most tested in the country”. No other principal, no member of the LHSAA Executive Committee, no one spoke on behalf of officials beyond this one comment. After these two votes to reject raises were taken, the Principal from Riverdale High School in Jefferson, LA, proposed a motion. If approved, this motion would remove from Section 8 of the LHSAA Handbook a long-standing provision that provided ½ game fees to baseball and softball umpires for rain out games in situations where umpires arrived at sites and games were canceled due to weather. The PA voted to approve this amendment and eliminate payment of these fees, a vote that brought applause among the principals in attendance.

January 2015: At an LHSOA EC meeting the day following the above PA vote, an intense discussion was held about the long-standing lack of respect shown officials and the numerous instances of broken promises and failed commitments by the PA. The baseball representatives on the EC informed the other nineteen members that its umpires statewide were in agreement to not work the season set to begin in February. For the umpires, the above-described treatment of officials by the PA together with the passage of the motion to remove rain out pay was considered the final insult. The other members of the EC, while sympathetic, agreed a walk out was not the right solution. After a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that a plan wherein officials would gain a voice in those issues most important to them, including, but not limited to pay, had to be developed. The EC voted unanimously to begin developing a detailed plan that would require schools to sign an annual services contract with each local officials’ association of the LHSOA and this contract would include provisions important to our officials. The first such provision identified was pay increases for all officials. The committee recognized the importance of getting this information to schools to allow for budgeting in the 2015-2016 school year and the target date to get the contracts out to schools was set for early May. This compromise effort motivated the baseball umpires to not take work action and they in fact worked in 2015.

March 2015: The new LHSAA Executive Director, Eddie Bonine, assumed his role. Mr. Bonine requested a meeting with the LHSOA President and at that meeting Mr. Bonine expressed disappointment with the PA votes. He further noted that the process where principals were allowed to vote on officials’ fee increases which then increased their school costs was a flawed process that would never produce positive results for officials. Mr. Bonine was informed that a plan was being developed by the LHSOA EC to address this matter. He was further informed that baseball umpires were only working because of the commitment by the LHSOA leadership to develop a new process. Details of the new contract process were not discussed with Mr. Bonine as the plan was still being developed.

May 2015: On May 3, 2015 the LHSOA EC met to take a final vote to approve the officials contract material. Mr. Bonine was invited to and attended this meeting was told of the new contract process. In addition, Mr. Bonine was provided with both the Officials’ Contract and the Master Fee Schedule that included increased fees for all seven LHSOA sports. Mr. Bonine did not openly support the contract process, but he did communicate that he understood the frustration officials were feeling and acknowledged that a change in process was clearly needed. Mr. Bonine informed the LHSOA EC that he planned to share the material with the LHSAA EC, which we understand was done almost immediately.

On May 7, 2015, all principals of the 400+ schools with sports programs were emailed the new Officials’ Contract and Master Fee Schedule with a transmittal letter explaining that officials were looking forward to working but would only do so with signed contracts. Hard copies of these materials were also mailed via U.S. Postal mail.

June 2015: On June 2, 2015, the LHSOA President was invited to speak at the regularly scheduled LHSAA EC meeting in Baton Rouge. At that meeting, the LHSOA President explained the rationale behind the contract process, detailing the years of failed promises and the near work stoppage action taken by baseball umpires in the season just completed. It was explained to the LHSAA EC that officials were ready to work but as independent contractors, would not work without signed contracts. The LHSAA EC responded that it was a violation of the LHSAA Handbook for schools to sign contracts with fees that conflicted with the Handbook and therefore they could not recommend their schools do so. The LHSOA President reiterated that officials would not work the 2015-2016 school year without signed contracts. Both sides parted firm in their positions.

Since the June LHSAA EC meeting the LHSOA President has met twice with Mr. Bonine in Baton Rouge with various ideas and issues discussed but with no definitive plan on how to resolve this impasse. It has been repeatedly stated by LHSAA leadership that any contract process would need approval of the PA, and they remain opposed to such a process.

RECAP:

  • Two raises in officials’ compensation in 25 years
  • The PA has never approved a raise at a regular annual meeting
  • Ad-hoc committees have been wholly ineffective in producing positive results for officials
  • The only positive actions from the PA have come when officials threatened to take work action or in fact, took work action leaving work action the only leverage available to officials
  • A range of promises have been made and broken including 1) bi-annual pay increases, 2) a seat on the LHSAA EC for officials, 3) funding and tools to support improved officiating, and 4) consideration of various other issues affecting officials such as site security, long-distance travel issues, and lodging for playoff contests

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