PORT ANGELES — A misinterpretation of how the state of Washington handles its teacher retirement pension system and post-retirement school district employment has tripped up the high-climbing Port Angeles girls basketball program, leaving the Roughriders temporarily without a head coach.
Michael Poindexter, whose career as an English teacher and yearbook advisor at PAHS wrapped with his retirement in June, submitted his resignation to the Port Angeles School Board late last month.
Poindexter has coached the Riders to a 158-65 overall record in his nine seasons as Port Angeles head coach, including three straight Olympic League championships and three straight trips to the state tournament in Yakima.
“In January and February I checked with the state Department of Retirement systems,” Poindexter said. “DRS either didn’t understand my situation or I didn’t interpret it correctly, but I found out ultimately [in June] that the interpretation I had was incorrect. I thought the law had changed with a legislative bill and you can’t retire and come back and be hired as an administrator by the same district, not for a coaching contract.”
Port Angeles School District Human Resources Director Scott Harker passed along the Washington Administrative Code that deals with Poindexter’s predicament.
WAC 415-02-115 covers separation of service for retirement eligibility and returning to work as an independent contractor, which covers coaching contracts.
The law states, “If at the time of your termination, there was an understanding between you and your employer that you would return to work for that employer in any capacity, including an ineligible position or as an independent contractor, you have not separated from service and not eligible to retire.”
Harker wasn’t sure of the reasoning behind the law, but a similar law on the books in New Jersey meant to curb abuse of the state’s education pension system was recently altered to allow retired coaches to continue coaching.
So Poindexter, who enthusiastically stated his desire to be re-hired as head coach of the Roughriders, is following the letter of our state’s law with his resignation and eventual re-application.
“To meet the law, when that job is open, I will be applying again,” Poindexter said. “There’s no guarantee I will get the job, but I am hoping not to quit. It’s just that decision will be in a [hiring] committee’s hands, not mine.”
Port Angeles is coming off a 20-7 season that saw the Riders play with a verve and poise that kept them competitive with the best of the best in Class 2A.
The season stood out to Poindexter, who has spent four decades coaching boys and girls basketball as both head coach and assistant.
“There have been some rewarding years, 2016 was one of them, what we were able to achieve with that group,” Poindexter said. “And this one was pretty rewarding as well and I have no desire to stop. I don’t feel like I am done. We have put a lot of investment into what we have done and I am hoping I will be selected. But that won’t be up to me.”
With Clallam County on pause in Phase 2 of the state’s re-opening plan, no large-group team activities are in progress. Poindexter said a pair of longtime assistant coaches will run any summer activities.
“Jenn Rogers and Daniel Horton will be running the summer program if we are approved for Phase 3 and approved by the school district,” Poindexter said.
Poindexter, who coached through bouts of acute pancreatitis last season, said he has been in good health since a rough night at state in March. He also plans on having hip replacement surgery this month.
The coaching position has yet to be listed on the Port Angeles School District website, but Harker said earlier this week it would be posted soon after a meeting with athletic director Dwayne Johnson.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].