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Schools of Thought: Cuts endanger FFCS sports

December 24, 2012
By MIKE ZUMMO ( , The Leader Herald

There is a lot of confusion emanating from the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District these days.

In the midst of the Board of Education's attempts to close a recently discovered $500,000 budget shortfall, students are up in arms over the board's decision cut spring sports from the budget, saving about $60,000 with the cut of the spring sports programs, roughly 12 percent of the shortfall.

It's not the Christmas present the athletes and coaches of the district wanted to receive the week before the holiday break.

That means, as of right now, unless something can be worked out when the basketball and indoor track seasons end in March, that could be the last time anyone will don a Braves uniform during the 2012-13 school year.

Or beyond.

The school board waited until the second vote on the 2012-13 budget before officially naming boys basketball coach Eric Wilson as the district's athletic director. If the budget failed, there wouldn't have been an athletic program for any of the three seasons.

Now, I wonder - and I'm sure I'm not alone - whether this is a Band-aid fix or a sign of things to come.

The cuts to the sports program, which was a hot-button issue at recent school board meetings, were budgeted into the 2012-13 budget. I wonder if sports will even be budgeted into next year's budget. If the figures baseball coach Rick Palumbo gave me stating that 70 percent of the student body plays sports, I wonder if the community will support a budget that doesn't have the three sports seasons in it.

Even if they are, the school board set a dangerous precedent in eliminating a program from a voter-approved budget. It basically says the board can eliminate these programs in the middle of the season if it needs to. If the district's programs are under that kind of storm cloud, I can see the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District plunging even further into the abyss.

After the decision to cut spring sports came down from the school board last week, some of the athletes' Twitter pages lit up with feelings of anger and sadness, and student-athletes were considering jumping to other school districts to recover their lost opportunity.

If I were in that position, I certainly would at least take a look at the option to see if there was a place for me on another school's team. I'd be getting the same state education and the opportunity.

Declining enrollment was cited as one of the reasons the district fell $500,000 short in its budget. The way things are going, I can't see enrollment turning around, especially if student-athletes feel their athletic opportunities as Braves are gone. If anything, it will get worse.

For now, no one knows how this situation will turn out in the end. There will be a meeting about this after the holidays as coaches and players want to see if spring sports can be saved. The Booster Club has been trying to raise money since the summer to save the district's modified programs and so far it had succeeded. Raising $60,000 before March may be a tall order, but I'm sure the club, led by President Missy Furman, will give its best effort.

The bottom line is the district's students are paying the price for a monumental mistake someone made with taxpayer money, and I expect if things don't improve, school board members may pay the price in May, especially if some of the district's best students and athletes vote with their feet and move to neighboring districts.

I think track coach Mark Therrien said it best: "We all have to make sacrifices, but no one should have to make these sacrifices in high school."



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