A law firm representing Central Kitsap High School athletic director Bill Baxter sent a letter last week to Central Kitsap School District threatening potential litigation over how the district handled his change in employment status.
Baxter, along with the district’s two other high school athletic directors, were notified Aug. 24 that their positions would be placed on “standby” until in-person learning resumed. They were told that by mid-September, they would not be paid and by the end of October their medical benefits would cease. Additionally they are not drawing service or retirement credits while on “standby.”
While the letter hints at the potential for a future lawsuit, it makes it clear the preference is to reach an agreement before ever stepping inside a courtroom.
“I just couldn’t sit on my hands anymore,” Baxter said when asked about the decision to retain Auburn-based law firm Van Siclen Stocks Firkens as counsel. “This is not right.”
CKSD spokesperson David Beil said the district received the letter from Baxter’s lawyer on Oct. 2.
“The school district’s attorneys are in the process of reviewing the letter,” Beil said.
Baxter contends he and CKSD agreed on a one-year employment contract scheduled to run from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
“I signed a contract,” Baxter said. “They are saying it’s not a contract.”
In late August when CKSD put its athletic directors on standby as part of a 118-employee furlough decision, Beil said district officials hoped athletic directors would resume working once students returned to the classroom.
Baxter recently expressed doubts over the district’s intentions to bring its athletic directors back, pointing out that other district personnel are currently handling some athletic director duties.
When CKSD held a return-to-play committee meeting Sept. 24, three assistant principals — Scott Wilson at Central Kitsap, Val Manada at Olympic and John Malich at Klahowya — introduced themselves as interim athletic directors, according to two people who attended the Zoom meeting, including Central Kitsap Coaches Association president Jon O’Connor. District athletic director Steve Coons later clarified that the trio of assistant principals are “supporting athletics” and not interim athletic directors.
Baxter said he remains skeptical.
“I really feel like this is a way that they are not going to bring us back,” Baxter said.
As a district employee for 32 years, Baxter said he appreciates the support he’s received from his coaches, some who helped organize a rally planned for Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the district’s administration building.
Asked about whether he wants to return to his athletic director job, Baxter said there are too many circumstances out of his control right now to make a call either way.
“I would have to think about it,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Central Kitsap athletic director Baxter hires lawyer over job status