Talk of baseball, softball programs still alive at Jefferson County North
by Dennis Sharkey
The beginnings of a baseball and softball program at JCN USD 339 were seemingly ending before they could begin, however, there may be a glimmer of hope for supporters.
Board Member Jim Bodenheimer saved the potential programs from certain death by volunteering to chair a committee to examine the many questions raised by board members and skeptical patrons and to confirm facts delivered by supporters.
“I have not had a passion for going either way,” Bodenheimer said about his being unbiased.
According to supporter Russell Jobbins a program could not be started until 2013 because of scheduling. Bodenheimer said a committee could look at the questions before teams are fielded.
“If it doesn’t (work), there is time between now and the beginning of it to say ‘Nope. We can’t do this right now,’” he said.
Joining Bodenheimer will be Board Member Karen Edmonds and High School Principal Gary Bedigrew. Some type of progress report will be presented in January although no one on the board expects much to be done by then.
The board has discussed the idea for months with some discussions becoming heated according to Langston.
“I feel like if I put this to a vote right now it would get shot down,” Langston said. “This is a last gasp.”
When he opened the issue up for discussion he made it clear that he wanted opinions of board members. However, board member Keith Ostrander said he wanted to hear from the supporters in the crowd. Ostrander has been absent from the board meetings for a few months battling a health issue.
“They made their opinion very clear the last two or three meetings,” Langston said. “You’ve missed it but we sure haven’t.”
Nevertheless Ostrander pointed to the citizen participation item on the agenda showing supporters and skeptics were allowed to speak.
Also at issue are surveys submitted to the board about the issue. Three separate organizations or individuals conducted surveys. Furthermore, Langston said the surveys provided by Jobbins and Bob Kiser were weighted. Jobbins handed the surveys to parents when they arrived at school for parent teacher conferences and Kiser’s surveys were conducted at sporting events. The third set of survey results were either brought in or mailed to the district office.
The results of the surveys were quite different from one another. The surveys collected by Jobbins from the parent teacher conferences showed that 81 respondents were supportive of adding the programs while 12 said they did not support the idea. Kiser’s survey said 16 patrons supported the idea with none opposing.
Surveys submitted to the district office, however, show that 79 patrons oppose adding the programs while 37 said they were supportive. Superintendent Dr. Tim Marshall said he believed that the surveys collected by the district office are more of a representation of what the voting block thinks, although he discounted that statement slightly by indicating it’s not scientific.
But supporters pointed out that a significant number of patrons did support the addition of the programs. Jobbins said that out of 1,234 registered voters in the district only 212 voted in the last school board election.
“You’ve got well over half that number at least expressing their interest in a baseball program,” Jobbins said.
However, Langston countered that the board considered the idea of setting up a booth at the parent teacher conferences but decided against it and that the survey was a surprise to board members.
“It’s still 134 patrons that said yes they would like a baseball team,” Kiser said. “That response is fairly substantial even if it was partially solicited.”
The main quip with the programs is funding. Skeptics pointed out that the district in the last year has cut teachers and programs to balance the budget.
Supporters argue that not having the programs costs the district students and consequently funding. Furthermore, they argue that the programs could be funded on donations such as other programs in the county are. One supporter in the crowd said he was associated with the McLouth programs when they began and that they were successful operating on donations. Another argument is a lack of field, but some say fields in Nortonville could be used.
Supporter and former board member Raymond Riley said years ago when consolidation occurred only one school in the county had a baseball program. Now JCN is the only district in the county that does not have a program.
“Obviously things have changed since then,” Raymond Riley said. “What I’m afraid of is this is going to divide this district. The finances of losing those students, which we’ve lost already, is substantial.”
None of the board members seemed to be against the idea of having the athletic programs, but had questions about the money. Board Member Sharon Porter said two of the school’s best programs have been cut recently.
“I can’t see why we would think we should add more when we’ve already cut two of our outstanding programs,” Porter said.
Board Member Katherine Wolfe said some students want to play tennis or golf as well and that the district does not have money to fund those programs either.
“What happens if we start the program and the money doesn’t come next year,” Wolfe said. “Where does it stop? I’m not saying we shouldn’t offer more. I wish we started it 20 years ago and we wouldn’t be sitting here.
“I don’t see economically how we can do it and be responsible to the rest of the district,” she added.
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