Apr 07, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The board voted last night to appoint B.J. O’Hara, the former Hobart All-American and one-time coach, boys varsity lacrosse coach and Todd Richardson boys junior varsity coach for the current season. The votes were unanimous with the exception of board member Brian Richardson, father of Todd, who abstained from both.
Todd Richardson will donate his stipend back to the district, his father said last night.
“He has worked with the kids from this district for several years now and he stepped into the position because we could not find anyone else that was certified,” Brian Richardson said. “Rather than let the kids flounder or have no program … he stepped in and helped out.”
New coaches had to be appointed following the March 15 board meeting, where the board denied the re-appointment of veteran lacrosse coaches Rick Young (varsity) and Mike Smart (J-V) with the season underway. Richardson voted with three other board members against appointing Smart and abstained from the Young vote (which was tied at 3-3), saying he was too close to the situation as his son is on Young’s team.
Interim Superintendent Larry Zacher told the Post-Standard Tuesday Zacher that while knows there could be “political ripples” over Richardson’s appointment, the district is struggling to find certified coaches.
Interim athletic director Phyllis Danks offered the jobs to the teams’ longtime varsity and junior varsity assistants Pat Smart (twin brother of Mike) and Jim Gunnip. Both turned the jobs down and resigned. Modified lacrosse coach Mike Frood also resigned following the controversy.
Board member Connie Drake said it was “appalling” that people would suggest Brian Richardson’s vote against Smart’s appointment and his son’s appointment to the position were connected.
“He’s come back every summer from college and worked with the kids, he’s been devoted to the program and he just wanted to see it continue,” Drake said.
Todd Richardson had earned his certification to coach this past winter because he hoped to volunteer for the J-E basketball program, his father said. Certification includes First Aid, CPR and AED training.
Richardson, 23, of Memphis, played Division II lacrosse at Mercyhurst College, where he graduated in the spring of 2010. As a junior at J-E, he was an alternate for the Central New York Empire State Team, his father said.
In defense of modified sports
Several residents spoke in defense of modified sports programs, which the board had proposed eliminating at a recent budget presentation. One of them was Jim Gunnip, a coach and teacher at Union Springs, who resigned last month as J-E’s assistant JV lacrosse coach after the board did not reappoint Smart and Young.
“Your proposal to eliminate modified sports at Jordan-Elbridge I believe will cripple all the JV and varsity level teams,” Gunnip said.
He said that by cutting modified sports, or 17 teams, “you will begin the process of student athletes not experiencing the benefits of practice, patience and persistence. These benefits are listed on the Jordan-Elbridge website under ‘why join a sport.'”
Gunnip said that kids now more than ever, during a time when cell phones and video games are prevalent, benefit from practicing with a modified sports team for two hours a day.
“Eliminating modified sports, or again 17 teams, will affectively leave time for students to become disinterested in sports, school spirit and an overall sense of pride in our school,” he said. “At this current time I think the Jordan-Elbridge School District has been stripped of our pride; we need to find some ways to put it back into our community.”
Zacher told residents that based on community feedback following last Tuesday’s budget presentation, the board intended to seek funds elsewhere in the budget to avoid cutting the modified sports program, which costs about $80,000 to fund. Of all the suggestions that came to him, which included taking more money from reserves and using restored staid aid, he said the most practical could be to restructure the sports program into two groups rather than three (modified, JV and varsity). Under the adjustment there would be two teams- one for grades seven, eight and nine and another for grades 10 through twelve.
Zacher said he wanted to make sure that whatever level of spending the board approves could be sustained in the future. The board’s proposed spending plan is about $27.6 million, 4.7 percent higher than last year, and requires reductions of 20.7 teachers, six non-instructional positions and three administrator, and a tax levy increase of 7.3 percent.
“I wouldn’t suggest we reinstate modified sports unless we really believe that we can continue modified sports into the future,” Zacher said. “Otherwise you’re only delaying it and you’re having expenditures you can’t sustain. And that’s why I think the seven-nine, 10-12 model is the most viable approach.”