Board discusses cutting sports at Mercer County

Robert Blackford/Editor

Members of the Mercer County School board discussed eliminating non-academic extracurricular activities in the district next year at its April 14 meeting.

Although the item was not on the agenda, board member Steve Willits made the motion and board member Kay Forret seconded it bringing it up for discussion.

Willits asked fellow board members “At what point do we stop teaching and just have sports? We need to know what it is costing us. Where’s the budget?

Board member Trisha Hank called the motion to eliminate non-academic activities “too drastic.”

Board member Doug Ball asked Willits for a definition of non-academic. “Does that include music?”

Forret said, “We’ve tried to bring this up for discussion in the past. We have to cut more than academics. We have to look at each part of the budget.”

Retherford asked, “Is it plausible for ‘pay to play’ even if we start at $10 per student.

Superintendent of Mercer County Schools Alan Boucher said that $440,000 is the portion of the budget set aside for sports.

Willits pointed out that that figure doesn’t include transportation.

School board president Dwight Shoemaker said, ‘It’s not good times out there.”

Retherford pointed out, “I’m not in favor of cutting sports. I’m in favor of getting it under control.”

Retherford pointed to a recent trip to Chicago where a team and played one game questioning if that was a good use of the district’s money.

Willits said, “There were nights we had four after school busses.”

Transportation director Robert Reed noted there are up to five some nights. We have had some communication problems. It’s not been perfect.”

Shoemaker said, “The board needs to do some soul searching. We’ve got to substantially change the way we do things.”

Shoemaker added, “We have to realize there are some students that won’t be able to pay to play. In Washington state I’ve been told kids pay $300 to play football.“

Shoemaker said, “The motion forces us to look at sports.”

Willits added, “The thing that has to end is ‘Money is no object.’”

Retherford added, By Cutting $1 million in education and not touching sports, what’s that say about us as a district.

Forret said, “Now we are talking about it(the budget for sports).”

Willits noted that the district has eliminated early childhood aides who helped children learned to read. “I don’t want kids graduating in 12 years who don’t know how to read but who was a really great athlete.”

The board agreed to table the motion until its next meeting.