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School Board Votes To Take No Action On Soccer

More than a dozen parents interested in establishing a soccer program at Water Valley High School attended the school board meeting last week. Principal Glenn Kitchens (standing) said if the program isn’t set up for success, then it did not need to be added to the school’s sports programs.

School Board Trustee Taylor Trusty said that he was confident as a board member that the district couldn’t add teaching positions. “But,” he said, “I am equally as confident that we can do this for less than $135,791…”

School Board President Lamar Burgess said, “I think we need at this point consider tabling the discussion or the addition of any other sports to the system.”

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – School board trustees voted to take no action regarding a soccer program for the district.
The four-one vote came after more than 30 minutes of discussion at the board meeting Jan. 22. Trustee Taylor Trusty cast the dissenting vote. About 15 people were on hand to lend support for the program, which was first brought up at the November board meeting and continued in December.
As discussion began, Dr. Glenn Kitchens, principal of Water Valley High School, explained to school board members that he needed to start planning now if soccer was to be added next school year. He said that he had already been told to plan for one less teaching position.
“If there are no jobs that happen to come open that can be filled with someone who can both coach soccer and take care of whatever the teaching position is, then somebody – and I am not sure who – has to decide whether or not the district is going to add teaching positions for that,” Kitchens added. “I don’t know what that cost. It cost a lot. A teacher costs a lot.”
Trusty said that he was confident as a board member that the district couldn’t add teaching positions. “But,” he said, “I am equally as confident that we can do this for less than $135,791, which is what’s on this paper.”
The paper to which Trusty refers is a letter to the board prepared by Athletic Director Greg Allman containing figures that show the itemized cost of the program based on making it equal to the other sports programs already in place.  “Those figures reflect doing the same thing for soccer that we do for our other sports,” he said.
Making sports programs equal is a directive of the school board.
Trusty continued that there is a school district in our area that is putting only $4700 into their soccer program “including their supplements.”
“Now I know that is not our district,” he added. “So, I guess what I am trying to say is the truth is somewhere between $4700 and $135,791.”
Dr. Kitchens said that he couldn’t speak to the financial questions, but no one had said to him that they could come up with $4700 much less the amount between that and $135,791.
After some additional discussion, board president Lamar Burgess said to Dr. Kitchens, “In looking at your letter, with the staff you have available right now in place and being unsure of what kind of cuts we know we are going to get, it is going to be literally impossible (to implement soccer).”
Dr. Kitchens added that only one member of the certified staff had told him that they and their family would like to be involved, but that they couldn’t coach soccer. He also said that he wouldn’t want to force a staff member to take on the job of coaching soccer. “That wouldn’t be a commitment.”
He noted that if the program could not be set up for success, “we don’t need to set it up.”
“I don’t want to add soccer if we can’t do it well,” said Dr. Kitchens. “But, I am not for or against soccer.”
I don’t want anyone to think I’m acting like it can’t be done. I’m telling you I can’t do it under the current circumstances.
Trustee Casey Washing-ton said that he had talked with members of the community who he had encouraged to share what they can do to support the program. But, he added, the district needs a foreign language course. “If I had to pick and choose, I’m picking a foreign language.”
After a brief discussion of the possibility of a paraprofessional leading an after school program, Burgess noted that the district had to position itself “where we can have a quality coach.”
“This community is going to demand excellence in everything that we do,” said Burgess.
Dr. Kitchens added that while the soccer program was being discussed the idea came up that the district could lose families because of its inability to provide a program that parents want for their children.
Community Support
Trusty commented that there is a lot of support for a soccer program pointing to the 15 people who came to the meeting to hear the discussion. “We’ve got 63 kids who have expressed an interest. If it is something that we can reasonably do, I sure would love to see those 63 kids participating in soccer versus standing down there under the tree or sitting down at the carwash in a pickup truck,” he said.
After a few more minutes of discussion, Burgess asked if there was motion. At that point, trustee Pierce Epes commented, “We have some needs at the elementary school. We have some needs over here (the high school). We’re a ‘D’ rated school district right now. From my perspective we have to get out of being a low rated school district on academics before I can see taking money and putting it toward athletics. That’s what we are here for is to educate children. Nothing against athletics. If soccer came, I’d have two kids who would be playing.”
Washington followed Epes and said, “I’d like to make a statement that I haven’t been able to finish all night.” The comment drew a laugh from fellow board members.
“We’re a community school. We always have been,” he said. “Pierce makes some very valid points. I think you won’t talk with a parent out here that doesn’t agree with what Pierce said. We need to get our school house in order. The only way I see soccer working in this district—the only way—is to get the community to buy into it and give us the support…financially…human resource wise. I don’t want to burden Dr. Kitchens with taking away his teacher units.”
Washington continued: “The only way I can see it working is if it can be an afterschool function under our MHSAA roof. If we can’t do it that way, then we can’t do it.”
After another round of comments, Burgess said, “I think we need at this point consider tabling the discussion or the addition of any other sports to the system.”
Washington said, “I’m for taking no action until there is a proper solution recommended to this board.”
Burgess said that he was taking Washington’s comment as a motion to take no action on the soccer issue. The 4-1 vote ended the discussion.

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