If Bobby Bolding returns to Pine Bluff High School next school year it will be as either the school’s athletics director or the head football coach, but not both.
The Pine Bluff school board voted Tuesday night to separate the positions of athletics director and head football coach meaning Bolding will no longer hold both jobs.
“It just needed to be changed,” board member Harold Jackson said. “We had been talking about it for the last year or so.
“It’s just a conflict of interest having to supervise yourself. It’s nothing personal. It’s nothing on Coach Bolding’s part.”
Currently, Bolding is the only athletics director at the four public schools in Jefferson County to also hold a head coaching position. Of schools sized 4A and larger in The Commercial’s coverage area, only Pine Bluff, Stuttgart (Billy Elmore) and Warren (Bo Hembree) have coaches in AD positions.
School board vice-president Ken Dickson, who was on the losing side of Tuesday’s 5-2 vote, said that he understands the self-supervising argument, but said taking one of those positions away from Bolding without documented reason is illegal.
“If you don’t have (documentation),” Dickson said, “you can’t legally demote someone.
“That’s why I voted no against it.”
If Bolding attempted to sue the district to get his job back, Dickson thinks he would have a case.
“I’m not a lawyer,” he said. “But I think he’s got a good leg to stand on. I think he’s got a strong foot-hold.
“With the decision that was made, he’s got the documentation to rebuke that.”
Despite the board’s ruling, Dickson hopes Bolding will stay on in some capacity.
“It’s kind of up in the air,” he said. “We don’t want to lose him.
“I think the argument that you can’t supervise yourself is understandable. I do think that’s kind of weird, but in a town this size it’s not uncommon for both to be the same person.
“Either way we would still love to have him.”
Bolding, who will retain both posts until the end of the school year, declined to comment on the decision. Bolding did say he was not at the meeting and did not know beforehand that the topic would be discussed.
Superintendent Linda Watson said she included Bolding’s name in a list of recommendations of administrators to be approved for contracts next school year.
Watson said the board decided to pull Bolding’s name from the list and vote on the matter separately. She said she was aware the board was interested in splitting the positions, but added that she “did not write that recommendation.”
“His immediate supervisor (deputy superintendent Rudolph Howard) did not have a reason to move him out of either position,” Watson said, “for any reason that would have been substantiated by documentation.”
Watson said board members brought concerns about Bolding to her. She said, “We looked into them, but there was nothing to document that could cause him to lose his job.”
Watson said she was unsure whether or not those allegations originally came from members of the community or the board members themselves.
“Board members brought concerns,” she said. “People in the community may have said something to them.
“But if they told a board member, no one came forth (to administrators) to voice concerns.”
Howard said he was “flabbergasted and broad-sided” by the board’s decision. He said he had spoken with Bolding, but did not know what the seventh-year head coach planned to do.
“I don’t know what his plan is,” Howard said. “I don’t know what will be presented to him. …
“Either way, we’ll have to look at what’s going to change. If you’re just the head coach, how is the salary going to be impacted? If you’re just the AD, what are the expectations for just being the AD?”
Part of the reason Bolding, who was already the football coach, originally became the AD prior to the 2010-11 school year was due to finances.
School board president Piccola Washington, who voted against the separation, said she didn’t see any “documentation for a reason” to sever the two positions. She also said the financial issues that go along with hiring either a new head coach or AD still worry her.
“I’m concerned about the money that will be needed,” Washington said, “to be paying two salaries rather than one.”
The one thing both sides appear to agree on is that Bolding has done a more than satisfactory job in both roles.
“Coach Bolding, in my opinion, has been exceptional in both positions,” Howard said. “No reason to devalue his service. … No reason I can give you that he is deficient in any area.
“I would go on, but I don’t want to get emotional about it.”