Going, going gone — San Juan School Board cuts six sports programs

Soltman: $23K would restore all sports at high school

At the San Juan Island School Board meeting May 28, the budget ax hit the spreadsheet and six sports programs hit the floor.

Football stays. Girls soccer stays. Boys and girls basketball teams stay. Baseball, softball and girls tennis stay.

Boys tennis and girls volleyball are gone. Boys soccer is gone. The co-ed sports — golf, track and wrestling — are gone.

Cheerleading, not technically a sport since the team doesn’t compete, stays.

According to Superintendent Michael Soltman, district officials used numbers from this year to determine levels of participation and carried those forward to next year. Soltman and Athletic Director Marc Vermeire balanced gender equity issues to comply with the federal Title IX laws.

Vermeire pointed to the calendar and the next school board meeting June 25 as a sort of an unofficial deadline for raising money for the athletic program citing the need to fix the 2008-09 sports schedules, a cumbersome process that requires more time because other schools are involved.

That’s the bad news. There is good news.

The district has made significant inroads in its efforts to raise the necessary funds to cover the $800,000 shortfall in next year’s budget; $200,000 was cut internally by the district, bringing the deficit to $600,000.

Some $300,000 in matching funds have been pledged through the San Juan Island Community Foundation; more than $175,000 has been donated by individual donors.

There’s still $125,000 more that needs to be raised – and then doubled by the matching gifts – in order to fully fund the school program to the same level of service as this year.

With matching funds that have been pledged to the school district, $23,000 in donations would make up the $46,000 shortfall. Donations must be designated for the sports program.

As per the district’s priorities in what they’ll reinstate, and in what order, the first $75,000 of classified staff hours have been reinstated. They were cut to ensure a math/science teaching position at the high school remained fully funded, and was at the very top of the priority list.

The elementary school’s Primary Intervention Program for at-risk children has been saved, as has the first $50,000 of the $100,000 cut in the athletic budget.

In keeping with the district’s priority list passed at the May 12 Special School Board meeting, fully funding the athletic program with the final $50,000 comes after certain academic needs are met.

A half-time Special Education assessment position needs to be reinstated costing $17,500 before any more money goes for athletics. That half-time job by an intern or psychologist is responsible for making sure those students who qualify for special education get placed in the proper program — quickly — which more than pays for itself with special-ed revenue from the state.

Once that position is funded, $23,500 will be needed — because it will be matched dollar-for-dollar — to fully fund the athletic program to this year’s levels.

The $95,000 cut to classified staff took shape as three paraprofessional positions were cut at each of the three schools. The office manager at the middle school, Lynette Roberts, will be laid off, with Binney Haenel moving into that position because she has more seniority. Jill Peacock will spend two hours per day at the middle school to administer computerized record-keeping and other duties.

The high school loses two and a half hours in secretarial time per day. Four hours per day of groundskeeping and custodial will be cut as well.