On a night when the Warren County School Board moved forward on ridding itself of scores of teachers, academic concerns were not what filled the hall with worried students and parents.
It was the issue of consolidating sports teams - not eliminating sports, mind you, just consolidating the teams.
There seemed to be far less concern in the Warren County Career Center Tuesday night about the SAT, ACT and PSSA than there was about the ACC, SEC and Big10.
One could write off some of the comments to youthful hyperbole, but some pleadings and predictions of social upheaval presented to the school board were troubling, indicating an almost panicky attempt to save the school colors. If, as one student said, "From a young age in Sheffield... we are taught to love Sheffield and dislike any other teams we play," then there is something wrong with the Sheffield sports program as it exists now. We hope that in the passion of the moment the lad misspoke.
We don't question the benefit of organized sports to round out youth development. It can impart a sense of self-worth and some leadership skills. But, it is no substitute for the kind of academics that will carry over into one's ability to establish and fulfill a career.
We have yet to see a job application with a space marked "Personal record in the 300 meter hurdles" or "Position played on your high school football team."
As this school district grapples with a budget that is more than $7 million behind the eight-ball, the school board needs to keep some perspective and not be swayed by a sea of matching jerseys. Organized sports can be played in any number of venues. Algebra, on the other hand, requires a teacher.
There is something amiss here.
We have a school district that is poised to begin a $70 million building program while at the same time justifying the elimination of teaching positions because of a "substantial decline in student enrollment." It is reducing academic programming and student services, while being urged to maintain four sports programs because participants don't want to give up their colors. And, it's been a while since we've heard any talk about consolidating Central Office positions.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Academics should be this school board's top priority.