For months, several of the area’s most influential athletics employees at various Horry County Schools knew they were on the way out.
Now, it is official.
Be it through a push from the end of the statewide Teacher Employee Retention Incentive program or strictly personal choice, those losses will definitively include St. James Athletics Director Paula Lee, Aynor Athletics Director Doug Hinson and North Myrtle Beach Athletic Trainer Keeter Hayes.
Two of those positions have been posted recently through Horry County Schools’ website, and most of the paperwork from the departures already has been put in motion. Execution of the retirements will go into effect in June, ending some of the most established careers in recent local memory.
“After 31 years in Horry County, it’s a bittersweet move. It’s going to be a change,” Lee said. “I told my family I’ll probably see them more [living] in North Carolina than what they do now. I’m looking forward to coming home on the weekends. This is a very demanding job. You have to have a love and a passion for it.”
As is the case with Lee and Hinson, some of the departures are directly tied to the conclusion of the TERI program, which state legislators elected to end effective June 30 of this year. Initial reports put the total number of employees affected at 6,000 statewide — most of them teachers and school administrators. In Horry County, the number is north of 200.
The program, which allowed teachers to continue to work after 28 years while still drawing a paycheck and earning a portion of their retirement benefits, was deemed too big of a financial burden for districts. The state voted in 2012 to end the program, citing a decrease in the pension fund.
It has created at least two major Horry County athletics vacancies so far, with more possibly on the way.
Lee began working as a physical education teacher and coach at Socastee in 1987 before accepting her current position at St. James in May 2004. In that time, she was responsible for hiring nearly 40 varsity coaches, helping to expand facilities and overseeing school growth that took St. James from Class 3A to 4A and next year’s move to Class 5A.
Along with Billy Hurston, she also spearheaded the Crescom Bank Holiday Invitational, the girls basketball tournament associated with the Beach Ball Classic.
Hinson served as a football coach at multiple stops outside the district beginning in 1988 before taking on that role at Green Sea Floyds in 2001. He transitioned into the Trojans’ athletics director position before shifting to Aynor in 2014.
There, he was able to finish the final four years of his career where he spent his four years of high school.
Like Lee, he could have petitioned the principal and then the district to stick around. However, he decided Dec. 28, after a hunting trip, that this would be his last year.
“If it was like in the old days, I would have. But it’s not the old days anymore,” Hinson said.
“When you’ve got people trying to run day-to-day operations of the school who don’t need to be doing it, it’s time to leave. I’m glad I came here. This is a great place. This is a very good place. Aynor is a great school; it’s got a great principal. But it’s changed so much over the 30 years that in coaching or as an AD, you’re never right. No matter what you do or what direction you go, you’re always going to be criticized or second-guessed. It’s hard to find good people now to go into coaching because of the fans. No one wants to go into officiating.”
Hinson mentioned several of those same things earlier in the week when talking about the resignation of Aynor football coach Jody Jenerette. However, he also brought up what was “good business” for the district — finding younger and cheaper employees to potentially fill some of its highest-profile roles.
Hinson and Lee were among two of the four highest-paid athletics employees in the district, along with Socastee’s Tim Renfrow and North Myrtle Beach’s Joe Quigley, those schools’ athletics directors.
All four made $93,125 this year, according to documents provided to The Sun News last fall. That figure includes both their annual athletics director supplements and educational salary.
Primarily, it paid them for their longevity within the state.
Renfrow and Quigley said they both intend to return next year, though Renfrow pointed out his status as an at-will employee.
“As long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it,” said Renfrow, who also has served as football coach at Socastee between 2003-2012 and at Green Sea Floyds from 1985-1987. “But I don’t know; this might be it. That’s up to the district. They could tell me tomorrow they’re not bringing me back. But I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”
Conway’s Marion Shaw, another long-time district employee who had been at multiple high schools and became the Tigers’ interim athletics director in 2014, wrote in an email that he has heard nothing one way or the other about his position and that he also knows of no planned retirements from his staff.
Carolina Forest’s Tripp Satterwhite and Loris’ Barry Brooks said they don’t believe there will be major athletics changes at their schools. Hayes’ departure is expected to be the biggest one from North Myrtle Beach, according to Quigley.
Hayes’ decision was personal — he was not part of the TERI program. He would like to continue to work in the field in some capacity, and he will join the staff of the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. His departure ends a career that included 21 years at North Myrtle Beach, as well as seven more at Socastee and an additional 13 in North Carolina prior to that.
“My kids grew up on this campus,” Hayes said of North Myrtle Beach. “I still like athletic training. It’s my passion. I’m just tired of 60-hour weeks and soccer games in wind. I’m 63. I’m ready to not do this every day at this level. … If the lights were on, I was probably there to turn them off. It’s been a good run.”