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Residents tell school board: Bring back lax assistant coaches

Coaches, parents, former players lobby to return funding to cut positions

— More than 50 people crowded the high school auditorium last week, all with one purpose: To urge the Cazenovia board of education to return the funding it previously cut to pay for varsity and junior varsity lacrosse assistant coaches. Without these coaches, funding advocates declared, the sport is not only dangerous for the players but could be disastrous for the district’s highly lauded lacrosse program.

“We cannot depend upon volunteer [coaches] to carry our program,” said resident Dave Falge at the school board’s Oct. 21 regular meeting, which was moved from the district office to the high school auditorium because of the large crowd. “The removal of two of our five coaches could be possibly catastrophic [to the program].”

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.

Because of the anticipated budget shortfalls, the board also eliminated four district positions, two modified basketball teams and the JV girls softball team from the 2013-14 budget.

Voters approved the $26,419,662 budget in a May 21 vote. The budget included a 3.39 percent spending increase ($867,410) and a 4.94 percent tax levy increase.

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. The board has listened to and thanked them for their comments at every meeting, but no actions or in-depth discussions on the issue were had in any public sessions.

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