Nov 27, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
After reviewing the Cazenovia school district’s coaching roster and finding a lot of “breakage” — or newer coaches hired at a lesser salary than the coaches they replaced — the Cazenovia Board of Education last week decided there was enough budget savings found to allow them to reinstate the two boys lacrosse assistant coach positions that had been cut from the budget in the spring.
While lacrosse program supporters, who lobbied the board en masse last month for the reinstatement, were pleased by the board’s action, it also opened an unexpected Pandora’s Box of concerns by residents who demanded to know how the newfound savings were created, why boys lacrosse was the only sport that benefitted and why the safety of male athletes seems to take precedence over the safety of female athletes in general, but particularly in lacrosse.
The lacrosse coaching funding issue started back in April, when the school board voted to save $11,000 in the 2012-13 budget by cutting funding for two boys lacrosse assistant coaching positions, one for varsity and one for junior varsity. The change cut the paid lacrosse coaching staff from five to three, making the modified, JV and varsity head coaches the only paid coaching positions in the program.
At every school board meeting since then, varsity lacrosse coach Jim Longo and assistant coach Eric Nieman (whose paid position was cut by the budget) have appeared, presented arguments and magazine articles, and requested that the board replace the assistant coach salaries. Their repeated comments concerned the lack of supervision and direct coaching that the 30 or so players can receive with only one coach, as well as the safety issue of only one coach being responsible for a group of young men playing a physical, contact sport that can be very dangerous. While the team does have volunteer coaches that assist the team, Longo consistently said that he cannot count on volunteers alone to make up the coaching gap.
At the board’s Oct. 21 meeting, a cadre of lacrosse coaches, players, parents and supporters showed up to urge the board to replace the eliminated assistant coaching funds. Their arguments not only concerned the possible weakening of a highly respected, winning and state-recognized lacrosse program, but also continued to center around the concerns of effective coaching, player supervision and player safety that only one paid coach can offer to a team of 30 athletes.
District Athletic Director Mike Byrnes told the board at that meeting that he believed he could find the $10,000 needed to fund the positions by a reevaluation of all coaching positions in the district, and he urged the board to reinstate the two lacrosse assistant coaching positions.
Board President Pat Vogl asked Byrnes to submit his reevaluation and figures for finding that extra $10,000 in his coaching costs to the board before its Nov. 18 meeting so members could make a final decision on the issue.
Superintendent Bob Dubik said that he and Byrnes looked through the coaching rosters and were able to find $7,900 in savings due to the “breakage” from the hiring of new coaches. The district also will be reimbursed $2,450 from the state’s Section III Athletics for certain costs associated with Cazenovia teams participating in state tournaments, Dubik said. That total $10,350 will be enough to pay for the projected $9,900 cost of reinstating the lacrosse positions, he said.
Board Member Karin Marris asked the board whether, if safety is such a concern for the boys lacrosse team that it needed more assistant coaches, shouldn’t the safety of the girls lacrosse athletes be considered as well?
Vogl said yes, and recommended that next year the board review all district sports teams, boys and girls, for the appropriate number of coaches per team and the safety issues involved per sport. Board Member Leigh Baldwin agreed, and said that such a “comprehensive review” was a good idea not only for safety issues but also for district liability issues.
District Assistant Superintendent Bill Furlong told the board that the district had planned to do such a review next year anyway during the budget process.
The board voted unanimously to reinstate the two paid lacrosse assistant coaching positions, one for varsity and one for JV.
Varsity lacrosse coach Jim Longo said he was pleased by the board’s decision. He said the board deserves “a lot of credit” for listening to the concerns of the program and not just paying lip service to program supporters.
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.