Jul 22, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia High School Academic Decathlon Team, which has a national reputation as a competitive opponent, has been struggling to stay viable for the 2013-14 school year in a fiscally austere environment; but on top of the funding uncertainty facing the team in recent months, a new problem has emerged — the loss of both team advisors.
Both of the AD team’s faculty advisors, Marty Kelly and Christie Brenneck, resigned their positions in June for personal reasons, district Superintendent Bob Dubik announced at the board of education’s July 9 regular meeting. Neither resignation was stated to be because of the AD team’s uncertain funding situation, Dubik said.
The high school administration posted an announcement seeking a new advisor on Thursday, July 10, but if no one steps forward to take over the job, the existence of the AD team may be in jeopardy.
This is the latest bad news for a team — and an extracurricular activity — that is a source of pride for the Cazenovia Central School District. The Cazenovia High School AD team has been a powerhouse in New York state, advancing to nationals eight of the last nine years. This year the team placed seventh in its division and 36th out of 53 national teams, with three members bringing home individual medals and awards.
This year’s success came at a cost, however, when the team realized only weeks before nationals that it did not have enough funding to travel to the competition in Minneapolis, Minn., and spent one month organizing and holding multiple fundraisers to pay their way. They raised the money, but at the price of great stress on the students to keep up with their regular studies, their AD team practices, other extracurricular activities they were involved in and the fundraising itself, Kelly told the school board at its May meeting.
At that time, Kelly warned the board that the future looked even worse — and more expensive — if the team continued to advance to the finals every year, with the next three national competitions being held in Hawaii, Alaska and California. To travel to Hawaii next year would cost about $16,000 in travel costs, which does not include the regular material costs and local travel costs.
The district’s policy is, and has been, to fund the team advisor and the purchase of the yearly study materials, and to bus the team to local and regional competitions, but it cannot afford the cost of sending a team across the U.S. to nationals. This caveat created an issue in that the state and the national AD organization both recently declared that for a team to compete at the state level it must commit at the beginning of the school year to travel to nationals if it wins. The discussion in Cazenovia – and other school districts – has therefore become: If we can’t afford to go to nationals, why compete at states and so why even have a team if it cannot compete to win?
When news of the AD team’s financial plight publicly broke, many members of the team, parents and district residents misinterpreted the issue to mean the team’s yearly funding had been “cut” by the school board in the 2013-14 budget. This issue was broached again at the board’s July 9 meeting when AD team parent Barb Axelson asked the board for an update on the team’s situation and also why the AD program was “going by the wayside.”
Dubik and school board members said nothing has changed in the way the team has been supported this year, that the budget includes funding for supplies and advisors, but a trip to nationals cannot be funded by the district.
The loss of the advisors has hit the team already in that supplies — typically ordered and received during the summer — have not yet been ordered for the upcoming school year. And unless an advisor is found, there is no need to order supplies because without a faculty member in charge there can be no team.
Dubik said the posting for a new team advisor will be up for 10 days at the high school, expiring on Friday, July 19. If no one volunteers, the district may be able to allow an advisor to be someone from outside the school, such as a parent, but the permissibility of that is unclear and the district is currently investigating its viability, Dubik said.
“Once we determine if there’s an advisor, then the board has to address what they want to do,” Dubik said. “There’s no budget for potential travel, and that’s the issue: fundraising.”
Even if a new advisor steps forward, the path to another nationally-ranked AD team in Cazenovia remains a murky possibility.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.