Joe Pepe spent two decades looking over his shoulder.
Someone recently tapped on his shoulder.
In reality, it wasn't someone, but something and that something is the West Virginia state law.
State law says that a West Virginia certified teacher is first in line for any coaching openings.
A certified teacher put in for the job of Weir High boys soccer coach and Pepe was out.
He told me he has no hard feelings about what happened because he knew it could have happened any time after that first year.
"I had a great career at Weir," said Pepe, who landed on his feet, being named the boys soccer coach at his alma mater, Brooke High. "I was treated very well."
This has nothing to do with the two men because this happens all around the state and there are very good local coaches who look over their collective shoulders every year when the bids come out.
This has everything to do with the state law that says qualifications come behind "appropriate certification."
It didn't happen in this case at all, but nowhere in the state board of education rules does it say that a certified teacher who wants a coaching position has to have any knowledge of the sport.
It doesn't matter if the non-certified coach has been in the position one, five, 10 or 20 years. It doesn't matter if the coach has had an exemplary rating by school administration throughout the years.
An exemplary rating is, "Performance is consistently exceptional in meeting performance criteria demonstrated by providing extraordinary opportunities for student success through instructional strategies that confirm the teacher's expertise and the ability to reach all students."
A coach who exceeds standards shows "Performance (that) is consistently above average in meeting performance criteria demonstrated by going beyond the established standards and instructional practices in reaching all students."
"Leaving wasn't my choice," said Pepe. "But, these things happen for a reason. It's in God's hands now and and it worked out very well for us. I hope everything works out for the new coach, the staff and the players."
Please understand that, in my opinion, all athletic directors would prefer each sport would have an on-campus coach. It would be easier to hold the on-campus coach accountable than any off-site coaches.
Schools want teachers to coach.
It just makes things easier.
A lot easier.
But, those days where all coaches are teachers are dwindling.
Some zillion years ago, when I was in high school, our girls volleyball coach was also the wrestling coach.
Times have changed within high school athletics because of the specialization that happens now that rarely happened years ago.
I would make a guess that maybe 15 to 20 percent of high school athletes are three-sport athletes. That number used to be so much higher.
Under Title 126 of the Legislative Rule of the Board of Education, Series 126 has to do with the "Procedures for Designated Hiring and Transfer of School Personnel (Policy 5000).
Under 2.1, "The purpose of this rule is to set forth general hiring criteria for classroom teachers, establish processes that a faculty senate may adopt when making hiring recommendations for classroom teachers, clarify certain transfer procedures, and outline the roles of the principal, county superintendent, and county board of education in the limited hiring and transfer procedures set forth herein. Utilization of these processes and procedures will provide teachers and principals with the ability to have a significant voice in determining the makeup of their school communities and will provide counties with flexibility in staffing schools to meet changing needs and enrollment."
Looking through the WVDE web site, I could not find where it talked about coaches, per se.
The following is under the criteria for hiring classroom teachers.
"In determining which of the applicants is the highest qualified for the position, the following factors set forth in sections 6.2.a. through 6.2.i. of WVBE Policy 5000 have been considered:
a. Appropriate certification, licensure or both;
b. Amount of experience relevant to the position or, in the case of a classroom teaching position, the amount of teaching experience in the required certification area;
c. The amount of course work, degree level or both in the relevant field and degree level generally;
d. Academic achievement;
e. In the case of a classroom teaching position or the position of principal, certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards;
f. Specialized training relevant to the performance of the duties of the job;
g. Past performance evaluations conducted pursuant to W.Va. Code 18A-2-12 and 18A-3C-2 or, in the case of a classroom teacher, past evaluations of the applicant's performance in the teaching profession as a certified educator;
i. Other measures or indicators upon which the relative qualifications of the applicant may fairly be judged;
I read this to mean any certification from any state comes before "experience relevant to the position."
That's not good. It can put too many people in a bad situation.
I understand this is a union thing.
I get it.
The job of a union is to look out for its members.
I was part of a union forever ago.
I really understand.
There are a ton of great teachers and coaches who bust their behinds to do great things with our youth.
I am squarely behind those coaches and teachers. But, unless administrators are going to make new teachers also become coaches to help fill needs, off-campus coaches are a backbone to many, many athletic departments and they should not be cast away.
It is time for the WVBE to seriously consider looking at a grandfather clause for these situations.
(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike)