Drew Central track funding in question
A group of Drew Central parents addressed the board Thursday night during the Drew Central School Board’s regular monthly meeting about the district supporting a track and field program with enough funding for the students to participate in more track meets during the 2013-14 school year.
Paige Caldwell, parent of a track student, asked the board to pay the necessary entry fees so that students could attend more track meets next year.
The last two years the track team were only permitted to compete in track meets hosted by Monticello High School because the track program has not been funded by the district.
Caldwell told the board that her son was one of the 29 track and field athletes who have found their place in the sport.
“A lot kids who can’t participate in other sports can take part in track,” Caldwell said. “When school ends each year, (track athletes) keep training.”
She said the program has many benefits for athletes, and also teaches discipline, respect and a good work ethic.
“This is something (my son) enjoys,” Caldwell said. “He’s never found anything he loves. He loves running.”
Caldwell also informed the board in 2012 and 2013 Drew Central had two district champions and two students to place first runner up. One DC track student placed first at the state competition, almost breaking the state record.
“I hope you work with us this year and we can (continue to) have a track program this year,” Caldwell said.
She presented a budget to the board. The budget included a few minor pieces of equipment such as relay batons, training hurdles, and starting blocks. The biggest portion of the proposed budget is the fees for the track meets.
The track team wants to participate in two meets at Hamburg, one at Crossett and three at Monticello.
Based on the last two years’ performances, the track team expects to qualify for the state meet next spring. They are also asking for the district to cover the cost of the entry fees and travel to the state meet.
The total proposed budget is $2,468.50, which does not include a stipend for Coach Shawn Curtis.
The board voted to table the matter until next month as recommended by Superintendent Mike Johnston.
Johnston told the board he wasn’t sure the proposed budget was “an accurate amount.” He said Curtis and Athletic Director Michael Goad need to sit down to come up with a true estimate of the cost so the board can make an informed decision.
“If it’s just three or four thousand dollars, I feel it’s a good thing,” Johnston said. “But, if it’s going to cost more than that, we need to think about the football stadium’s needs.”
Johnston said the board needs to think about the football program that has already been approved and started. He said the football field needs restrooms, bleachers, and sidewalks.
“Anything more (than $3,000 or $4,000), you need to think about it,” Johnston said. “Do you want to start two sports programs at once or do you want to wait until one is more established before beginning another?”
Drew Central began the football program just six years ago.
Caldwell said they aren’t asking the district to create a new program. They are asking it to support the one it already has.
“We aren’t asking for a new program,” Caldwell said. “We have a track program. We are asking for a little support for our kids to do what they love, to give them an opportunity to thrive in something.”
Caldwell said she plans to attend the next meeting.
“I hope to bring more parents and more students in to show how important this program is to us,” she said.
Caldwell said she’s asked to be placed on the agenda numerous times.
“I wanted to come talk to the board in January before track got started,” she said. “But I wasn’t placed on the agenda until now.”
Caldwell said she feels like she wasn’t given the opportunity to speak until now because the school choice deadline has passed.
“If we don’t get what we want, we won’t have the opportunity to move to Monticello this year because of the school choice law,” Caldwell said. “So we have to be here for another year unless we move.”
Caldwell said she doesn’t see why the board won’t fund the small amount they are requesting because they have a lot more to lose should students choose another school that does offer track.
“Changing schools is not an option for us this year because of school choice, but it might be next year,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said she hopes it doesn’t come to that.
Drew Central, and all other public schools, receive state funding based on the student population.
Phyllis Stewart, state board/commissioner’s liaison with the Arkansas Department of Education said each school will receive $5,267 for each student during fiscal year 2013; $6,393 for fiscal year 2014; and $6,621 for fiscal year 2015.
Curtis, who also attended the meeting, said he hopes the board will give the track program support because it’s already doing well.
“We have a program,” Curtis said. “We have some talented athletes already participating at this school.”
Curtis said these athletes could have a track scholarship in their future because of their success.
“I have one student who almost broke the state record this year,” Curtis said. “And, he will break the record next year. It’s going to happen.”
Curtis said he just wants to give his students the best possible chance because track can open doors to the future.
“I went to college on a track (and field) scholarship,” Curtis said. “I would have never gotten anyone’s attention playing any other sport at my high school, but I still got a track scholarship.”
He said all he wants is objectivity so the track students can have the same opportunity he had as a student.
Curtis said he also wants to thank Coach Danny Chisom at Monticello High School for allowing the Drew Central students to use their track to train.
Chisom and other Monticello coaches attended the meeting in support of the Curtis, the parents, and the students.
“This school has a lot of talent,” Chisom said. “We love having (Drew Central) practice with us because it gives us another coach out there.”
Chisom said he fully supports the effort of Curtis, and the track parents and students.
“We’ve got everything you need just down the road,” Chisom said to Curtis after Thursday night’s meeting.