At the start of this week, Cartersville High School athletic director Darrell Demastus had a 12-time state champion in his new baseball coach. After what Demastus said were developments he’s never witnessed in his administrative career, that’s no longer the case.
Former Central High and longtime Columbus High baseball coach Bobby Howard resigned as Cartersville head coach Thursday. Howard, who had held the job for just over one month, explained that, “They are great people and they made a great offer, but the retirement/investment piece could not be worked out.”
On Friday, Demastus detailed exactly what went wrong with the Howard-Cartersville pairing.
According to Demastus, an individual who has retired within the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia but opts to return to teaching must suspend his or her retirement completely or work less than 49 percent of a full-time job to keep drawing retirement. Howard was drawing full retirement while working in the Alabama school system.
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Demastus explained that Howard, who had 35 years in Georgia’s system when he left Columbus in 2015 and later took the coaching job at Central, was given “bad information” about his status in terms of coaching Cartersville and still drawing from his retirement.
Demastus said the problem could have potentially been solved had it been discovered in June. Instead, the issues came up this week, just days before Cartersville City Schools return for the 2017-2018 school year.
“If you’re new to the school system, you have to go through new teacher orientation,” Demastus said. “When coach Howard came in to do his paperwork as a new teacher like every other new teacher we hired in the system, he realized something’s not working out here. That’s when our assistant superintendent and them sat down and looked. Sure enough, he wasn’t given the correct information.”
Had the situation been discovered sooner, Demastus and the others involved could have potentially found a partial teaching spot for Howard. However, with the start of school nearly one week away, there were no openings within the school system to fit his need.
Demastus said he, superintendent J. Howard Hinesley, Cartersville High School principal Marc Feuerbach and the entire administrative staff sat down to find a way to keep Howard and allow him to still draw on his retirement.
In the end, they concluded it could not happen.
“It was frustrating on our part because of the simple fact that we lost a very, very, very good baseball coach,” Demastus said. “I do not blame — and nobody in our administration or in the community — blames coach Howard at all. It’s just one of those situations that came into play that nobody could really do anything about.”
As a result, Howard resigned. Kyle Tucker, who was an assistant with the baseball team last year, will “act as interim head coach for a year,” per Demastus.
Demastus expressed his regrets over losing Howard and said Howard sounded sincere when he informed the coaches he would not in fact be leading the Hurricanes. Demastus said he was aware of Howard from the battles between Cartersville and Columbus over the years but was really looking forward to getting to know him better.
Demastus is also an assistant principal at Cartersville, and he explained his hiring process for coaches and teachers is the same. He looks for an individual who can fit in with what Demastus deemed the “family” that exists within Cartersville City Schools.
Though it proved to be for naught, Demastus said Howard was exactly what he was looking for.
“When you lay a resume like Bobby Howard’s down on the table, his is second to nobody,” Demastus said. “I think the biggest thing with Bobby was during the interview process, the personality he had just seemed to fit the personality of the school. He was very down to earth. His knowledge of the game was never questionable. He seemed to be relaxed and seemed to be somebody who could fit into the school system.”
Though the situation led to an undesired outcome, Demastus found some humor after the saga’s conclusion. He said he and Feuerbach often joke back and forth about the need to write a book on their experiences within the education field.
“I said, ‘Well, I guess this is going to have to be a chapter in the book,’ ” Demastus said. “He said, ‘Coach, we’re probably going to have to have two chapters for this one.’ ”