Stripping schools of their sports

(Cardinal Newman's Karl Kobler, right and Danny Binz. Photo by Crista Jeremiason.)

Imagine, if you will. Colleges send their scouts out to all the different high schools looking for their next Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke. They sit in the stands at numerous games, taking notes and writing down names for those ballplayers they wish to extend invitations to for the next season’s college teams. Several students will receive scholarships to guarantee their entrance to their college. And a select few of those star ballplayers will go even farther and be drafted to a major league baseball team.

These scouts will not be attending any Santa Rosa high school games.

Last night the school board voted to strip the Jr. High and High Schools of their spring sports. This includes, not only baseball, but track, swimming, softball, badminton, boys tennis and boys golf. They also voted to shorten the school year by 3 more days, increase the class size from 28 to 29*, and take away the IB program that is dedicated to those students excelling in their studies. On the only bright side of the evening, the board agreed to defer the vote on eliminating 7-8 librarian positions – a move that could mean much less study time for students who use the library during school breaks and study periods. That vote will take place February 17th.

Read the article that ran in the Press Democrat today.

Frankly, I’m furious. It is true the Santa Rosa schools are strapped for funds right now. And budget cuts have to come somewhere. But taking away school sports? To be a part of a high school team, a student must maintain a minimum of a C average and stay out of trouble. For some students, this is their motivation for keeping up their grades and behavior. For some students, being a part of the high school team is equal to breathing. It is their passion, their drive. And we are yanking it away. And yes, this vote strikes a personal chord with me. My 9 year old son is passionate about sports, and is exceptionally good at baseball. I am excited for the day when I can be in the stands at his high school, cheering him on as he plays. This vote takes that future hope away from me. If I am outraged over this vote before my son has even reached that stage, I can only imagine the anger and disappointment of those students and their families that this vote affects now.

Santa Rosa High student, Hannah Croft, also voiced her outrage in the Teen Life blog. “…as I’ve learned in my month in economics, there is money left unspent. The reserve funds, a percentage of the district’s annual income, are untouchable. However, even without the reserve funds, the district finishes each year in the black, with more money than they expected. We are tightening the budget at this point, because our school board isn’t much for estimation. Our projected spending exceeds the actual spending year after year, by thousands of dollars.” She continues that “steps can be taken to save money before we cut spring sports, leave Mesa students in the dust, or throw forty students in one English class. Ask teachers to unplug their refrigerators, microwaves, computers, and other appliances over the weekends. Turn off heating and air conditioning when no one is on campus. These steps seem simple, yet we’ve bypassed them, and jumped into these anvil-sized budget cuts.”

My opinion as far as budget cuts go? Reduce the amount of school districts by combining them. Does Santa Rosa really need 41 school districts, complete with their own staff and offices and all the other costs that go along with them? Increase fundraising efforts from those participating in sports. Cut classes or programs that aren’t as popular or necessary in the school program. There has to be other avenues and measures that can be taken before taking away programs that are beneficial to our students.

The board promises to revisit this issue in April or May to see if any of these changes can be reversed. Parents, if you are as outraged as I am, I urge you to be a part of this meeting and make some noise. Our high school students deserve so much better than this.

*Note: class sizes are not being increased to 40 as previously stated, but are only increasing in size by 1 student.  Thank you, Tad, for bringing this to my attention.  🙂


19 thoughts on “Stripping schools of their sports

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  1. I understand that the cuts are painful and that many families will be dissapointed in what is to come. But, the truth is that sonoma county schools have millions more to cut. For my home district, we have been making very painful cuts over the last two years and are looking at at least 1.5 million more to cut. Yes, sports are important but even more so is the schools primary responsibility of delivering a core academic education. By the time the cuts from the state level have all fallen over the next two years, no school in Sonoma County will look like it did two years ago. This is a painful reality we all must accept. Parents, teachers, and unfortunately students. This situation is not due to the large number of districts or overspending. It is due to unprecedented cuts and more cuts to the level of funding received while the cost of education (books, equipment, facilities, and yes salaries) continue to rise.

  2. The school board increased high school class sizes from 28 students to 29…not 40!

    It also decided not to increase K-3 and middle school class sizes.

  3. I agree with Wine Country Mom. Cut the bureaucracy not the programs. Most of our public institutions are run by people who rise to their level of incompetence and then create layers of bureaucracy to cover up that incompetence. Remember the huge surpluses of just a few years ago?

  4. Tad, you’re right. Thank you for pointing that out.

    CDB, I know that cuts need to come from somewhere. And I’d be naive if I thought that, with all the budget cuts that have come into play, our school systems of today and tomorrow should be the same as they were yesterday. But this decision is a hard pill to swallow when the decisions made are ones that affect our students so drastically. I have a hard time believing that there are no other options before cutting school sports.

  5. I am proud of our recent graduates, student/athletes Karl Kobler and Danny Binz. It is great to see them in a photo from the archives. It is unfortunate that this particular photo has been associated with this story. Please realize that at a time when other institutions are reducing the number of days of education and important co-curricular programs, Cardinal Newman continues to support with full funding its:

    – Academic Excellence,
    – Altruistic Spirit,
    – Artistic Expression, and
    – Athletic Achievement.

  6. It is my belief that schools are purposely making cuts like these in the hope that the people will beg for tax increases. If the schools were serious about cutting costs they would cut bloated staffs first. They have learned these tactics from City, County, and State government. They cut sports programs, police and fire, etc. but never cut the things that would hurt them personally. I have voted for every school bond issue since I have been voting but no more until I see some cuts to staffs and salaries.

  7. I remember when I was i high school, they threatened to cut the sports program. I was on the swim team, and we stepped up and took care of our own costs. We bought our suits, paid a fee to cover rental of the pool and use of a bus for away meets, and sold snacks at home meets to help cover any other incidental costs. Couldn’t another alternative be found to help kids keep their sports programs?

  8. The administrators in the district office are the most important people in our educational system. If it were not for them, our children would not even have an education worth talking about. Twenty years from now, are they going to think back about the achievements they earned on the swim team? No. They are going to remember that administrator who drove that nice Lexus parked in the reserved space in front of the school. Get rid of the sports, the arts, the wood shop classes. But Lord, please keep all those administrators on the rears, behind their desks, in the district offices.

  9. I can’t believe it. As I write awaiting my son to finish freshman baseball practice. It happened with fine arts too and several parents understanding the importance raised funds necessary to keep band and music alive even at the grammar school level. It’s sad that so much of our tax dollars get squandered by ineptitude. I’ll quit before I say something I’ll later regret. What next. Neighborhood road paving ceremonies? Citizen arrests?

  10. The school board is a joke and they know. The cost to run ALL sports fall , winter and spring is only about $200,000. They only cut spring sports, which would be a fraction of that amount . They are just trying to scare us into paying more taxes.

  11. In 1991 spring sports were cut by the SR School District. Parents stepped up and formed Schools Plus and raised about $100,000 in a very short period of time to fund the spring sports programs. Schools Plus still exists, although it has been quiet for the past few years. Parents, if you truly believe that these programs are needed, then it is time again to turn to Schools Plus, get involved and start raising the funds necessary to turn out well rounded students. Check out the website at, contact John B (his contact info is listed there) and get involved. If you sit back and wait for someone else to come to the rescue, you will wait a long time . . .

  12. As Tad stated above, the board did not cut class size for grades K-3. WHY NOT??? Smaller class sized are great, but they are a luxury. Most of our current high school seniors had 30 kids in their kindergarten classes and while it may not be ideal for the teachers or the students, the idea of increasing class size for those grades to 25 -27 should be considered. I have no idea how much that would save, but my guess is that it could be enough to save spring sports. Better to have more kids in an elementary class then to have fewer having a reason to go to class and maintain good grades in high school.

  13. Just to be clear, the school district currently only covers the coaches salaries and the pool lease. Each school site funds all their team sports officials out of gate proceeds from football, basketball and soccer. Boosters, Individual Teams and parents cover all equipment, uniforms and tournament fees. Most teams do not travel on buses unless it’s to Ukiah. Parents drive the players to all other games. The district stopped paying for other expenses long ago, why can’t they at least cover the small stipend each coach gets? If cuts have to be made, I’d rather see it at the Middle School level. They have PE everyday and many other sports options for their age group. Don’t punish the High School Athletes that have worked hard to get where they are!

  14. KIDS NEED SPORTS. The board’s message is that “we must work together, with drive, energy and mutual respect, always staying focused on what matters: our children” – have they – the ones in charge of making policy – forgotten these fundamental qualities are derived from participation in sports?

    In today’s article, the board pres says sports in 2011 won’t be cut after all – most likely. He sighted new solutions – WHY didn’t they have these solutions 3 days ago before VOTING TO CUT THE SPORTS PROGRAM? They are incompetent and not advocates for our youth as they have been voted in to be. They should have the privilege of making policy removed and a new board should take over that includes a mixture of leaders that know the importance of sports – the health benefits, the scholarship benefits, the incentive to have good grades, the ability to work with others to achieve a goal, the experience of comradeship, conducting oneself with good sportsmanship qualities, etc etc etc.

  15. I have never posted to a blog, but as a board member who voted for these cuts, I feel there are some misconceptions here that need to be cleared. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a public official has been that while people easily express opinions, sometimes they are based more on anger than on fact.

    (Please note, these are my opinions only and I do not speak for the board. Parts of this are also from an email response I sent to an angry parent.)

    First and foremost, the school board must cut $5.6 million from the
    budget, and next year we are likely looking at another cut of close to $5
    million. While *no one* denies the importance of items such as music, art
    and sports, today’s high stakes (and high cost) testing requires that first and foremost, the “basics” be covered. Since I voted to cut librarians (and the adult ed program/teachers) as a cost-saving measure, I knew I could not cut staff and classes without also looking at “extracurricular” activities.

    While everyone decries the cuts being made, very few offer viable
    alternatives. The most common advice we get is to “cut the bloated
    administrative costs,” as we see in some of the responses above. In reality, administration is not as huge as people seem to think, and letting them all go is not the answer to filling a $5+ million dollar hole. Who then would deal with the business aspect of the district? Most teachers, let alone the public, know what really happens at the district office. (Until recently, *I* didn’t know what they really did, and I have been a teacher for close to 20 years.)

    Also, the county (not Santa Rosa) has 40 districts. If anyone is interested in trying to consolidate any of them, please contact the state or SoCo Superindendent, Dr. Carl Wong, for information. This movement cannot come from individual boards; it must come from the electorate. (You wouldn’t believe how often we get reamed about this, as if we’re personally holding it up.)

    In response to the student’s allegations about extra money left over in the budget, this has been discussed many times between the district and the union. I told that SRHS teacher that the district has answered these questions, in my mind, in a satisfactory way. I urged the union leadership to contact CTA (CA Teacher’s Association) to go over the budget and get their professional opinion. I haven’t heard anything back yet about this.

    In relation to sports, an aspect that many have seemed to miss, and as was stated in the Press Democrat, is that the district hopes food sales and energy conservation can *fill in* for the general fund money being cut from sports. This idea *has been* in place and was mentioned at the meeting as a hoped-for solution to keeping spring sports in tact. It was *not* an after-thought. If students buy the healthy lunches offered by the schools, and urge everyone to conserve energy in their schools, they will be supporting sports.

    “Board members urged district officials to monitor a energy conservation
    plan and food service program that staff has suggested could generate
    enough funding to support the athletic programs, as well as some arts
    funding. The board intends to revisit the cuts to spring sports in April
    or May to see if they can be reversed.

    [Associate Superintendent] Bower said the program has already shown signs of success.

    ‘These are very achievable goals,’ he said.”

    More and more I, as both a teacher and a trustee, am coming to the conclusion that public education is in such dire straights that we will be left with a mere skeleton of what it used to be here in California. The closing of schools, the cutting of sports, classes, jobs, etc., indicate the problem is huge, and did not originate with any local school board. We cannot afford to take anything for granted and must demand of Sacramento that legislators and current/future governors “care” and adequately fund public education. I firmly believe our very democracy relies on this.

    Laura Gonzalez
    SR Board Member

  16. I appreciate Ms. Gonzalez’ comments on this blog, but the action of the board regarding spring sports reeks of political agenda. The community is bound to respond to such the drastic measure of cutting school sports more so than to cutting librarians, and parents will rally to raise money to save the programs. In the mean time the other schools participating in the North Bay League are left to figure out how they will structure their spring season without five of their participating schools. Plans to improve facilities are also placed in peril — why make improvements if the program is going away??

    Where does the $250K amount to fund spring sports come from? Students pay to play and provide their own transportation. The SRHS swim team, for example, buys their own suits and has parkas generously donated by the SRHS foundation. Coaches are paid a small stipend and facilities must be maintained, but $250K. . . Really????

    Times are tough, that’s no secret.

  17. Wow, I completely agree with you. Combine the districts, don’t take away the sports! Or, like heather said, come up with some kind of fundraiser solution.

  18. Sorry Laura Gonzales, you are sincere but the sports decision reeks. The district is fishing for the community to cough up a quarter of million in donations, and backtracking now that the trial balloon indicates it won’t happen. Have you tried to not give raises or even cut the salaries of the bad teachers in the district–stop being such cowardly ninnies versus the teachers union. Cut the elementary-schoolish “how to learn and behave” classes in the high schools. If you are frightened to take on the teachers union, cut the higher admin salaries–if not total number of staff–a 1 percent pay cut will take a big dent in that quarter million and I doubt in this economy anyone will quit! Cut all adult ad classes–you are here to serve 18 and under, leave those over 18 to the JC. Yes, times are tough, but cut salaries but not the programs that directly serve the traditional students.

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