E.R. Parents Speak Out Against Sports Cuts at BOE Meeting

Cutting middle school sports will only hurt kids, parents say.


A routine East Rockaway school board meeting quickly turned emotional on Tuesday night at when parents voiced their displeasure with the district’s proposed removal of middle school sports.

The suggested plan rose out of a continuing effort to balance the 2012-2013 budget, according to the board. The board is currently looking for ways to fill a $35,000 budget gap, according to Board President Neil Schloth.

“It’s a very painful thing that we have to go through,” Schloth told Patch. “We have to decide what is going to have the least impact on the school district and what we can afford to do that’s going to least impact the academic success of our children.”

Parents were very displeased with the programs that the board chose to cut. 

“Middle school students, ages 10-14, are a distinct group of adolescents,” parent Paula Cerasoli said, citing an article about a district having similar issues in Culpeper, Virginia. “...Athletes learn important life skills such as teamwork, commitment, sportsmanship, dedication, responsibility, and leadership.” 

Trustee Patricia Nicoletti attempted to explain a portion of the rationale behind the decision, citing words spoken by Athletic Director Dominick Vulpis to parents at a recent middle school basketball pizza party. 

"[Vulpis] said that when each of the supervisors in the district were forced to make cuts, he felt that middle school sports would be the best way to get that money because when our students are graduating high school and going off to college, the colleges do not look at middle school sports - they look at high school sports,” Nicoletti said.

Nicoletti noted that the district is leaving money in the budget for middle school students to play intramural sports. Competitive middle school sports cost approximately $60,000, according to the board.    

Parents had other concerns besides the emotional and mental development of athletes. 

“We will not be able to compete with (other districts) when we get to JV and varsity, especially football players,” one parent said. “By having children not prepared to play against JV and varsity from other districts, you are putting them in physical danger.” 

The board explained to those assembled that, while the elimination of middle school sports was a “heart-wrenching” decision, they had little choice in the matter given the current economic climate. 

Trustee Kristin Ochtera tried to communicate the dilemma to parents. 

“We did not go into this with a blindfold...We are at the point right now where we are hoping that money comes back from the state because we still need to find $35,000," Ochtera said.

“We don’t even know where to take another $35,000 from,” she said. “I wish I could say to you ‘I’ll find that money from someplace else.’ But I don’t know where else to look.”

What do you think about the district’s proposed removal of middle school sports. Tell us in the comments below. 

the big kahuna March 21, 2012 at 05:10 PM
how stupid is this board? Drop rock rivalry and any other stupid function and get the sports back. How do you field a jv and varsity program if there is no feeder programs. Kids will get hurt.
busy mom March 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Perhaps, Big Kahuna, if you had been at that meeting you would know that the money saved by eliminating Rock Rivalry does not nearly compare with the $60,000 saved from eliminating the MS sports. What a shame more parents did not 'voice their displeasure' that several teaching positions are being cut. Maybe I am wrong, but the primary job of the school district is to educate the students.
the big kahuna March 22, 2012 at 07:46 PM
sorry busy mom but you are wrong. It is 20000 for a waste of time and 12000 for intramurals maybe a combined 7 and 8th grade program could be saved No one really looked at that. I would much rather have this than a rock rivalary. Wouldnt you?
the big kahuna March 22, 2012 at 07:49 PM
the postions that are being cut are part time wasted positions no real teacher slots are going. Some are being combined so teachers and admnisitrators have enough work to do for the full day that they are bieng paid for.
busy mom March 23, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I had an "aha!' moment when I read your most recent comment, Big Kahuna. I realized that you are not getting your information first hand. I remember reading (perhaps in The Herald) a parent stating that the Rock Rivalry budget was $20,000. As someone who has attended several of the Budget Advisory meetings and BOE meetings, I know this figure is very inflated. Just because someone throws out a number does not make it true. Also, if you check the districts website (as I did after you made those comments) you will see that three full-time teaching positions are being cut from the elementary level and a full-time librarian. I have a niece in one of the sections being cut and know first-hand how that will affect her next year when there are 10 more students in her class. These are not 'wasted positions'. I appreciate that these facts may not change your mind but urge you to research everything you read and get the information first-hand!
the big kahuna March 23, 2012 at 03:00 PM
i have heard that figure first hand and from the article in the herald. Every district is forced to have some changes due to the mess this economy is in. It doesent make any sense to cut sports teams and put the kids on the street. Sometimes you have to give up things to get others. to cancel the middle school sports program tells me that this board did not really look hard enough at the impact it will have on the district. I know 10 more kids will be harder but they will still have the opprotunity to learn in the classroom. Where will the kids go after school is over?????


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