Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 16 March 2010 18:23
Superintendent Steve Noble said he’s not personally in favor of eliminating athletic programs from the USD 410 program, but he defends the appropriateness of considering the move in challenging financial times.
“We said at the start that everything is on the table,” Noble said of the process undertaken to identify more than $360,000 in potential cuts. “The leadership team said it’s time we put sports on the table, and I applaud them for that.”
Five high school programs (and their cost) ended up on the consideration list of 36 potential cuts: softball ($9,300), baseball ($11,800), golf ($6,100) and girls’ tennis and boys’ tennis ($9,300 total).
Middle school wrestling ($3,000) also is on the list.
Noble said the board and leadership team settled on three criteria to help them identify the programs to cut, though he added that few of the selected programs fit “cleanly” in each category.
• Last added, first out. Softball, baseball and middle school wrestling were the most recently added programs. Tennis and golf have a longer tradition at Hillsboro High School. Cross country is a relatively new sport at HHS, but equipment expenses are minimal.
• Opportunities to participate outside of school.
Noble said football is the only sport at USD?410 that doesn’t have a reasonable outlet for interested youth. He said the board emphasized the availability of local, recreational participation for youth with a variety of skill levels.
• District investment in facilities and equipment.
Noble said the district recently made a $2.5 million investment in a new venue for football and track and field, and it owns gymnasiums for basketball, volleyball and wrestling. It does not own fields for baseball or softball, tennis courts or a golf course.
“We’re leasing those,” he said, “but we do have awesome facilities.”
Noble said the board and leadership team considered the “pay-to-play” concept, and that option is still being discussed. Under pay-to-play, the district would cover the expense of a sport by assessing fees to families of participants.
It’s not an approach favored by Noble, who has been a teacher, coach, activities director and principal before becoming a superintendent.
“It didn’t make my list because it becomes regressive,” he said. “I think it’s a regressive tax, for lack of a better word, on families that can least afford to be excluded. I am not a fan of pay-to-play.”
He admitted that some people could argue that eliminating athletic options reduces opportunities for students, too.
“That’s a fair argument,” Noble said. “I guess in times of less, I want to do more with less. We’ve got to pour our resources into programs we feel have been a tradition in USD 410—and not just from a success standpoint, but from longevity, from facilities, and from things we’ve made commitments to over the years.”
Noble said in the long run it is better to cut an entire athletic program then make all programs suffer from reduced funding.
As the issue is addressed in formal and informal settings, Noble said the community needs to realize that cutting athletic programs not only affects the income of district employees, but also the local economy.
He cited as an example that Hillsboro hosted a regional girls’ tennis tournament this past fall, which drew many families to town.
“When we talk about cutting sports, people will have to see the big picture,” Noble said. “We’re talking about cutting revenue for our community. People come in and they eat at local restaurants, for example.
“So we’re cutting off our own income streams when we look at cutting athletics.”