Instead of preparing for an officials’ strike, the LHSAA executive committee was able to strike up a crucial four-year agreement with the Louisiana High School Officials Association on Thursday.

The majority of 18 principals on hand for a meeting/conference call at the LHSAA office in Baton Rouge voted in favor of an agreement that includes immediate pay raises for officials in seven sports and a formal move to recognize the LHSOA as an affiliate organization.

In turn, the LHSOA agreed to drop its demand for LHSAA member schools to sign LHSOA contracts in order to obtain officials. The agreement still will go before the LHSAA’s general assembly for a vote in January.

“We believe, in terms of improved understanding and communications, a major breakthrough has been achieved between the LHSAA leadership and our officials,” LHSOA President Paul LaRosa said in a news release. “The agreement we’ve reached provides significant benefits to both parties, which is always a key component to successful negotiations.

“There is more work to do, but we believe the commitment and motivation is there on both sides to immediately apply the required effort to get all provisions of this agreement in place.”

LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic chaired the executive committee meeting and did not have a vote. Bonnaffee said Thursday’s agreement provides another vote of confidence for new LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine.

“The thing I’d like to express to you is that the executive committee is very pleased with the direction Mr. Bonine has shown in this situation involving the LHSOA,” Bonnaffee said. “Of course, the proof is still going to be in the pudding and that comes in January when the membership votes.

“There’s still work to be done. All of us on the committee have taken the time to talk with principals from our areas about this over the last couple of weeks. That has to continue.”

Much of the agreement was hammered out during a lengthy LHSOA executive committee meeting Sunday that was attended by an LHSAA group, which included Bonine, assistant executive director Keith Alexander and Bonnaffee. The LHSOA met with its membership Wednesday in New Orleans.

The Sunday meeting was the first significant interaction for the two groups since negotiations reached an impasse June 23. At that point, the LHSOA refused to back away from its demands that LHSAA schools sign contracts that mandated pay raises in order to have officials in football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, volleyball, baseball and softball for 2015-16.

Requiring contracts between schools and officials was deemed to be a violation of the LHSAA’s constitution. Bonine said he did not have the authority to ratify a pay raise or any agreement with officials. Bonnaffee said consultation with LHSAA attorneys showed the executive committee had the authority to approve the agreement, based on constitution item 4.4.2

“(Item 4.4.2) says the executive committee has the authority to act if there is new information brought out that wasn’t available in January for the annual convention,” Bonnaffee said. “This, of course, came up after January.”

The member principals’ decision to vote down proposals for modest pay raises in volleyball and basketball factored into the LHSOA conflict, as did another vote that took partial game fees paid to baseball and softball umpires who travel to games that are rained out.

“I’m not really going to get down in the weeds on this thing,” Bonine said. “That’s really for the LHSOA to discuss. What I am happy about is that we have a four-year agreement in place. Now we can move forward. Next week is the (LHSCA) Coaches Clinic and we’ll be talking to the coaches about this.”

Another key point of Thursday’s agreement is a restructuring for the LHSAA’s sports officials committee, giving the LHSAA and LHSOA an equal number of spots on the committee.

The sports officiating committee will be charged with addressing key issues raised by the LHSAA and LHSOA, enhancing communication between the two groups and developing a process and system that creates performance accountability for officials.

“Any time adults put themselves in a position to interfere with the chances student/athletes have to compete, it’s not a good thing,” McKinley Principal Herman Brister Jr. said. “It was important to get this worked out. Most of the pay raises are not that significant and I believe we’ll find a way to make it work.”

Executive committee member Tommy Hodges of Doyle said he was confident a solution would be found.

“I spoke on behalf of the officials getting pay raises and I believe they deserve them,” Hodges said. “What I’m not as pleased about was the process it took to get here.”

Hodges and Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association past President Marlon Harrison spoke of the importance of communication as both groups move forward.

“We weren’t just asking for $5,” Harrison said. “We wanted to be able to sit down at the table with the LHSAA and be able to look at them and say, ‘This is what we need, how can we get there.’ We needed to have that line of communication to discuss things and to find out what we need to do look better in the LHSAA’s eyes also. We didn’t have that until now.”

LHSAA/LHSOA new officials pay scale

Baseball

Regular season: $75 certified officials, $65 registered officials; Playoffs: $80 certified, $70 registered; State tournament: $100 all.

Basketball

Three-man crew: $50 certified, $40 registered, $35 clock operator; two-man crew: $60 certified, $45 registered, $35 clock; Playoffs: $75 all, $50 clock; State tournament: $100 all, $60 clock.

Football

Regular season: $90 certified, $65 registered, $45 clock; Playoffs: $105 certified, $75 registered, $55 clock; State finals: $115 all, $80 clock.

Soccer

One person crew: $85; two-person crew: $120; three official crew $155; Playoffs/four-person crew: $220.

Softball

Regular season: $65 certified, $50 registered; Playoffs: $80 all; State finals: $85 all.

Volleyball

Regular season: $45; Playoffs: $65; State tourney: $75.

Wrestling

Dual meet: $60; Tri-meet: $65; one-day bracketed tournament: $125; two-day bracketed tournament: $175; Dual meet tournament: $45/dual.