School board reviews band and athletics registration numbers

Online sports registration is working out well so far for Warren County School District.

The deadline to register for fall sports is Monday, July 8. The number of students registered at that point will determine if a program will be provided and, if so, how many coaches will be needed.

“When I looked (Monday), there were 300 total students registered,” Coordinator of District-Wide Athletics Rick Gignac said. “I’ve had no negative comments.”

He said athletic directors have been hosting open houses at the schools and those events have been helping people navigate. “Sheffield’s enrollment (in athletics) jumped by 20-some just from having that night,” Gignac said.

On Monday, the school board’s personnel, athletics, and co-curricular activities committee heard information about the registration benchmarks — when programs will be cut, when they will be on probation, and when they will have additional coaches.

For example, football programs require 22 registered students. With fewer than 20 students, the program will be cut. If there are 20 or 21 participants, the program will be allowed to compete for one year. If there are not 22 students the following year, a second year of probation will not be allowed and the program will be canceled.

The paid coaching staff for a football program includes one head coach and two assistants. If at least 40 students sign up, a third assistant will be hired.

Gignac could generally explain the numbers required for various sports based on the thinking of community committees. For some sports — volleyball and football, for example — the limit is twice the number that play at any given time. That allows for scrimmaging.

Board member Jeff Labesky argued that the same standard should be applied to middle school basketball — which, according to the chart presented on Monday and available through Board Docs at the district’s web site, requires eight for a team. “With eight, I don’t know how you scrimmage… how you simulate a game,” he said.

He also argued that starting a football team at 22 would mean being unable to scrimmage a few weeks into the season. “That’s a great start-up number,” Labesky said. “When we get to day 20 and we’re down to 16, what do we do? Are we going to allow that program to continue?”

“It’s not uncommon for teams to forfeit due to injury,” Gignac said.

“When we do forfeit games, the team that is receiving those forfeits is going to react in a negative way,” Labesky said.

Superintendent Amy Stewart said the proposal would call for a program to be eliminated if a team can’t finish its season. “If you don’t have enough kids to finish the season… you’re done,” she said. “Your school’s not going to have football next season. We don’t want to put our teams in that situation.”

The number of wrestlers required for a team was increased from previous practice. The goal is to fill weight classes and be able to compete as a team.

The committee “felt that 16 was a good number,” Gignac said. “Out of those 16, there are a lot of kids that are the same weight class.”

“We don’t want to run a bus, run four matches, and then come back,” Stewart said.

“We spend a lot of time as a board talking about participation,” board member Joe Colosimo said. “Each and every year we find another way to put a band-aid on it. We’re in charge. At some point, you make decisions. I think we ought to consider the idea of going to county-wide stuff.”

“I’m tired of our focus groups,” he said. “Every focus group is interested in their mascot or their colors. Dad wants little Bobby to be a Knight, or a Dragon, or an Eagle, or a Wolverine.”

“If we got with focus groups, we know what we’re going to get,” Stewart said. “They weren’t interested in making the big, pro-active choices. ‘Let’s set up parameters by which, if a program dies, it dies.'”

The problem with letting programs die is that the PIAA has a two-year cycle, Gignac said. If a program goes under in the first year and a co-op would change the receiving school’s classification (2A to 3A), that co-op cannot be put into place and the opportunity is lost for a year.

Then, if a school loses a girls program for a full year, the school would be in violation of Title IX.

Band

The proposal also outlined the requirements for marching band.

A marching band program with one instructor and one assistant would require 15 students. Over 40 would generate another assistant. Only 14 students and the program would be on probation. Less and there would be no marching band.

The details of that proposal also include that the minimum number includes instrumentalists and color guard, but does not differentiate.

“It’s safe to say we could run out… three instruments” and the rest band front, Labesky asked.

Stewart said the members of the marching band committee, including the district’s instructors, were prepared to argued in favor of that possibility. “If they were here they would say that they support that. They felt that they could adjust the music,” she said. “I told them we do not agree with that.”

She said the district was prepared to “run the season… instead of pulling the rug out from under them right now.”

“When you see the product on the field, it can be somewhat embarrassing,” Labesky said. “We’ve taken a whole year and we haven’t made any progress. It’s not a good product. It’s not enjoyable.”

The people involved in the committees were interested in maintaining programs, according to Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber.

“We were charged with running these groups,” Weber said. “There’s nobody that showed up to those meetings that wants to reduce anything.”

“We should be responsible for putting out a competitive or balanced product,” Labesky said.

“I’m not so sure that marching band is what kids want,” Stewart said. “We’ve got to figure out what the kids want. Our music programs that are successful right now… the All-County Musical is out of this world.”

“It’s been mentioned several times how successful the All-County Musical is,” board member Mary Passinger said. “It is… for the central attendance area.”

“I think it’s an awesome undertaking,” Passinger said. “It’s not perceived the same in all of the schools.”

“If you analyze… you have two or three from each of the outlying schools,” she said. “The majority is the central attendance area. It is successful unless you’re from the outlying schools.”

According to the program for the production, 34 out of 49 performers were from Warren Area High School. Six were from Eisenhower High School, five from Sheffield High School, one from Youngsville High School, and two were home schooled.

While Stewart suggested there might be “outside-the-box” ways to alleviate the transportation issues inherent in a district the size of Warren County’s, she said district-wide programs are popular and successful. “Nobody ever has complained to us that we only have one welding lab,” she said. “We have one. The kids love it. They choose it.”

“I think we need to capitalize on that… think like that, and centralize opportunity,” Stewart said.

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