Football fans fail to score home team
School trustees heard a report Wednesday, June 10, from a committee charged with providing information on what it would take to add the sports in terms of cost and staffing.
Tonya May, a committee member who spearheaded the effort to add the sports, told trustees Wednesday the committee had done all it could toward providing information about costs and staffing for both programs, and that further research, and a decision, would be up to the superintendent and the board.
In the end, no action was taken, but trustees agreed to continue looking into the possibility of adding both sports.
Trustee Chuck Borders, who earlier had been elected by his peers as presi- dent of the board, said, “We don’t have to take a vote to proceed.” He suggested the board keep the proposal on the backburner and determine if there is interest in a community-based flag football team that might eventually segue into a schoolsponsored sport, much like Little League. After several successful years of Little League-sponsored baseball and softball, those sports were added to the school district’s athletic offerings.
After the meeting, May said that adding other sports, such as swimming and soccer, has been suggested, but there are no schools in Class 1A, or within reasonable driving distance, with which Port Aransas ISD students could compete.
May told trustees the total cost of adding the sports would be $610,000, which would be spent over a four to five year period. She emphasized that many options are available in terms of facilities and equipment as well as scheduling and staffing.
Athletic Director Steve Reaves compiled a detailed list of equipment, travel, facilities, transportation and other costs associated with adding football and volleyball.
In answer to a question posed at a workshop last month by Trustee Margaret Price, the committee found that 28 Chapter 41 Class 1A schools have football. Chapter 41 districts are those considered property rich, such as Port Aransas, and must send a portion of all property tax collected to the state for distribution to property-poor districts. In Port Aransas, more than 70 cents of every $1 collected is distributed outside the district.
The committee, in response to a question from Trustee Ken Dunton, reported that 78 students participated in athletics during the 2008-09 school year, down one from the year before, but up from the 67 students who participated in 2005-06. Data was not available for the 2006-07 school year. Those numbers were broken down by gender as well: 2005-06, 36 boys, 31 girls; 2007-08, 34-35; and 2008-09, 41-37.
May concluded her presentation saying, “We, the committee, feel this can be done. It will take a year or two with everyone working together to achieve a common goal. Change is hard, something new is hard, but with positive attitudes and camaraderie, this can be accomplished.”
Borders polled board members after the presentation to get their reaction.
Ann Appling said she agreed that it was time for the board to look into the proposal.
Rita Reed said she does not want to dilute academics for the sake of athletics.
Rick Adams said he has more questions, and is not prepared to press forward with the idea. He said adding football poses challenges, and that no one is willing to compromise academics.
Margaret Price said she is disappointed that people don’t get as excited about UIL and academics as they have about football. She said she is still not convinced there would not be a trade-off between academics and athletics if football were added.
Ken Dunton, referring to Mayer’s report about the impact athletics has on academics (presented in May), said, “without exception, we out-compete” every comparable school by “enormous amounts.” He also noted that PAISD spends 9 percent more on academics than comparable schools. He referred to an article in Corpus Christi Beat magazine that reported academic scores from all size schools in the area and, “We are head and shoulders above all of them,” including the largest 5A schools.
Dunton said adding football “sounds great,” but the reality is that the district has limited funds. Other districts that offer football, he said, are trying to balance academics and athletics and, “We beat them all.”
He also expressed doubt that Port Aransas would have enough students to form a football team, and suggested starting football first as a “club” sport, much like community-based soccer and baseball programs.
Borders said it would take $300,000 a year from academics to make football happen, and “Our pie is not getting bigger, it’s getting smaller,” he said.
Borders noted that the Pop Warner Football program has age and weight restrictions that would probably prevent Port Aransas from being able to form a team.
Adams said that in a conversation he had with Trustee Jay Jones, who had a work conflict that kept him from attending the meeting, flag football was mentioned. “Jay said he might go for that,” Adams said.
He also said he does not see kids playing sandlot football in Port Aransas, which would be an indication of their interest in the sport.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Charlie Clark and Todd Groseclose spoke in favor of adding football, while Suzanne McCann, Bonnie Issac, Bill Slingerland, Pamela Voyles, Doyle Marek and Lisa Shelton spoke against the idea.
Clark said football would bring more families to Port Aransas as well as give some kids a reason to come to school. He said it is not fair that Port Aransas students do not have the same opportunities as students in districts where football is offered. He quoted from the movie, “Field of Dreams,” saying “If you build it, they will come.”
Groseclose reminded trustees of the response to the South Jetty’s online poll in which 269 respondents favored adding football and volleyball, while 142 were opposed. Whether for or against the proposal, Groseclose said everyone agrees that no one wants to sacrifice academics for athletics. He urged the board to “go beyond business as usual” in finding a way to add the programs.
He closed with two questions, the first of which he answered in the affirmative, the second of which he left unanswered. The first question was whether football team could added without raising taxes, and the second was, “Do we have the willing and qualified people in place to make it happen?”
McCann’s contention was that school is for academics, and a football program could be left up to the community. She expressed concern about scheduling other student activities around football and the loss of one class day a week to football.
Issac urged the board to distinguish between needs and wants, using the 10-year-old skirt she was wearing as an example. She said she wanted something new to wear to the meeting, but she didn’t need something new. She, too, said football could be offered outside of school.
Bill Slingerland, a science and math teacher at Port Aransas High School, said the district has won UIL academic competitions for 14 years, a claim that cannot be made by school districts that field football teams.
Voyles, librarian at the high school, expressed concern about the impact football might have on existing programs. She said she would not want football to take the place of dual credit classes being considered now.
Marek, a former math teacher at Brundrett Middle School who coached football here when it was offered at the middle school level in the mid-1950s and after whom the high school gym is named, expressed disapproval of adding football.
Introduced by Borders as a “legend,” Marek was allowed more time than the allotted three minutes per person. Marek offered a little history lesson about his being hired by Constable Henry Olsen, after whom the elementary school is named, even recalling what he ate at the old South Grill while being interviewed.
Now living in George West, Marek said he has seen what football has done to that community as well as neighboring Three Rivers. Residents of both communities are “consumed” with football to the point that Marek avoids coffee shops because he doesn’t want to talk about football. He said he doesn’t want Port Aransas students playing those schools or for Port Aransas to become like them.
Port Aransas students have too many other opportunities, Marek said.
Shelton urged trustees to separate emotion from fact in making a decision. She said many are against adding football and volleyball if they undermine the educational success of PAISD. Shelton said those opposed to adding the programs are against increasing student-teacher ratio, eliminating small group instruction, intervention groups or any teacher or aid loosing her or her job to pay for adding these sports. She expressed opposition to combining core classes, taking away one-on-one instruction and raising taxes to “help fund something that only benefits a small number of students.”
Shelton pointed to the many opportunities available to PAISD students, and listed 16 extra-curricular activities.
She urged trustees to make a decision and move on with the goals for 2009/10.
The board, however, did not make a decision, but informally agreed to keep the proposal on the back-burner.