Parents plead for middle school sports

DOWNEY - Four parents-Kimberly Buss, Debbie Fitzgerald, Mary Skill, and Miguel Esquitin-Tuesday expressed their anxieties to the Board of Education about the cutting of all sports programs in the middle schools, and pleaded that they be restored, saying that these sports programs contribute greatly to the development and self-esteem of the kids."We won't argue against the programs' importance," said board president Barbara Samperi, "but we've had to do away with these because the state has made severe cuts to the district's budget." "We have not really cut the programs," said assistant superintendent of business services Kevin Condon. "We have merely suspended them, and we have every intention of restoring them as soon as better times materialize. But come June, when the state budget comes out, all indications are that we're in for further cuts. So there." This was also echoed by board member D. Mark Morris and Superintendent Wendy Doty. Boardmember Tod Corrin said, "We have been proactive on this, and we are on the same page on this." Ninety-percent of the district budget is personnel-related, according to Stan Hanstad, assistant superintendent of personnel services. "We have already announced the savings (some $820,000) realized from early retirement of some teachers and the realignment of administrative staff (the figures still to be determined), with a director assuming additional duties here, and another one taking on more assignments there, with no increase in salary. Note this: we haven't laid off any teachers, except for the three at the Adult School. We are the only district that has accomplished this." Condon said, also mentioned by Doty, that "We've tried to keep cuts away from the classroom, and to a large extent we have succeeded in this." "We have already encroached on this," said Hanstad, as the prospect of increased class sizes looms. In view of all this, one alternative broached by the parents themselves was the staging of intramural events in the middle schools. It was pointed out that the middle schools' sports programs entail coaches' stipends ("the biggest expense") and the cost of equipment, supplies, and overtime, etc. Intramural games, if they can be run by parent volunteers, will be a good alternative. Another good alternative for the time being is the city's many programs for the youth, said Hanstad. As for concerns about the district accepting kids from outside the district, Condon said these kids actually bring in revenue to the district and do not use up resident kids' entitlements. "Besides," said Hanstad, "these kids are legally entitled to the same rights and privileges conferred on everybody in the district. Also, discretionary funds go first before the essentials. Middle school sports programs belong in the discretionary funds. The essentials include, as the superintendent has pointed out," in fact, the number one essential is the instructional program." "Right now," Condon said, "it's clear that we're just about in a situation where we might be forced to pick our poison: we can slam our noggins against a wall or poke our eye with knitting needles." (Because of its impact on students and families, the district's budget situation vis-?†-vis parents' complaints and anxieties will continue to be explored by this paper on a regular basis).

********** Published: March 12, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 47