By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Efforts Tuesday night by the Havre Girls Fastpitch Association and the Havre Boys Cross Country Club to have the club sports adopted by Havre Public Schools were unsuccessful. School board members said the district cannot afford to support two additional sports.
Although the board did not support the proposals, a motion to reject them outright failed when it resulted in a 3-3 tie vote among school board members. The tie vote meant the board took no action on the requests. The three members who opposed the motion did not say they supported the requests, but wanted to postpone the board's decision until next month.
A motion to postpone to allow the district to research private funding for the sports was defeated 3-3.
Proponents of the two clubs said they will now ask the district to research whether it could adopt the sports without providing financial assistance. The two teams have enough community support to raise their own funds, they said.
The deadlocked vote came after a lengthy public comment period in which student athletes, coaches and parents spoke in favor of the district adopting the two sports. Board members said they were touched by the comments, but that they agreed with HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller that the district could not afford to sanction the sports.
"Unless the Legislature opens the floodgate, it's not looking that good," board member Kathie Newell said.
"It is true. It is really bleak," board member Theresa Miller told the packed auditorium at Havre Middle School.
Miller said this morning that the district's budget is so tight it leaves no room for new programs.
"The major impediment is the financial situation that the district is currently in. Adding new activities would require the district to change or reduce activities it is presently doing," he said.
Many people said after the meeting they were disappointed by the outcome, and several questioned whether adopting the two sports would be as costly as district officials maintain.
In a written recommendation to the board, district administrators said supporting the girls fast pitch team would require a budget of about $25,000, while that for the boys cross country team would be $4,700.
Boys cross country coach Ron Watson said he thinks the travel estimates by the district are not accurate.
"I think some of their costs were wrong. They were inflated," he said.
Girls softball coach Kim Staudinger said she questions the district's estimate of startup costs for a girls softball team, and that annual expenses would be much lower than the district's estimates.
"It's hard to go against the research Dennis Murphy and Kirk Miller have done, but I know what we've spent this year," she said.
Miller defended the cost estimates.
"We based our numbers on the quality of the other programs we currently operate," he said today. "Everybody has a right to their opinion, but we need to rely on the numbers that would maintain the quality of programs that the district expects."
The failure of the two requests seemed to hit the students the hardest. A number of former and present cross country runners attended the school board meeting, as did the majority of the girls softball team.
"I'm kind of disappointed," said senior cross-country runner Jeff Sprinkle after the decision. "I voted for the mill levy to be passed. I voted in support of one of the new board members who said he would be in favor of adding new activities, and did not do that tonight. It was disheartening."
"I honestly think they thought it would go," Staudinger said of the girls she coaches. "I see five or six girls in tears, and as a coach it is hard to see that. These girls are great athletes, and I think they deserve this. It's kind of a slap in the fear," she said.
Miller defended the cost estimates.
"We based our numbers on the quality of the other programs we currently operate," he said today. "Everybody has a right to their opinion, but we need to rely on the numbers that would maintain the quality of programs that the district expects." A number of former and current cross country runners attended the school board meeting, as did the majority of the girls softball team.
"I'm kind of disappointed," senior cross country runner Jeff Sprinkle said. "I voted for the mill levy to be passed. I voted in support of one of the new board members who said he would be in favor of adding new activities, and did not do that tonight. It was disheartening."
"I see five or six girls in tears, and as a coach it is hard to see that," Staudinger said. "These girls are great athletes, and I think they deserve this. It's kind of a slap in the face."
Board members Newell, Normon Proctor and Denise Thompson voted to deny the requests to adopt the two sports. Members Joe Marino, Theresa Miller and Todd Hanson opposed the motion. Members Aileen Couch and Judy Bricker were absent.
Marino made the motion to postpone the board's vote until June so that the district could research whether the district could sanction sports that are privately funded.
Proponents argued that club athletes are denied the opportunity to compete in divisional and state tournaments, are not allowed to wear their schools' uniforms and not allowed to use district transportation.
"There's nothing at the end. Without being in the high school, we cannot participate in the year-end tournament," said Havre Girls Fastpitch Association board member Mike Evans. "We're not looked at the same. We're not conference games. We're a scrimmage."
"The most difficult thing for the 2003 season was watching two seniors not able to compete at divisionals," Watson said.
Others said the lack of district support for girls softball and boys cross country robs kids of valuable scholarship opportunities.
"We're restricting our girls by not sanctioning those kids," said softball coach Chris Inman. She added that many of the girls who play softball are not involved in other sports, and that sanctioning the club sport would have a minimal impact on other spring sports.
One parent said research has shown that students involved in sports have higher levels of confidence, a better self-image and are more likely to graduate. Those students are also less likely to engage in risky behavior like sex and drugs, the parent added.
Watson argued that the district should adopt boys cross country because the sport was once a district-sanctioned extracurricular before it was scrapped because of Title IX requirements.