Participation to decide schools' sports funding

July 14, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Three public high schools in Washington County will likely receive less county money for athletics under a new formula to determine sports spending at seven high schools.

The Washington County Board of Education voted 5-0 Tuesday to allocate athletic funding based on the number of student-athletes at the school, not total school enrollment. Board members Paul W. Bailey and W. Edward Forrest were absent for the vote.

The new formula will not affect donations the schools receive, money from gate receipts, money from student athletic fees or funds that pay for coaches, officials or athletic directors, said School Board President Wayne D. Ridenour.

He said the seven high schools with sports programs are expected to use the total of $209,459 allocated for high school sports in fiscal year 2010 mainly for equipment, new programs and other needs. The vote Tuesday did not increase the total amount of money the school system spends on sports.


Under the new plan, beginning this year, schools will each receive a base of $8,000 in sports funding, and then will get additional funds based on the number of student-athletes at the school. One student who plays three sports will be counted three times under the plan.

Schools will receive a percentage of the remaining funds after the base funding is subtracted. Those percentages will be based on the percentage of student-athletes at the school compared to the number of student-athletes at high schools countywide.

Funding for fiscal year 2010 will be determined using student-athlete numbers from the 2008-09 school year. However, a draft of the funding formula provided to the school board Tuesday provided 2007-08 student-athlete data.

Under that formula, Boonsboro, North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools will receive less money for athletics. Clear Spring, Hancock Middle-Senior, Smithsburg and Williamsport high schools will all receive more money.

Ridenour said the funding for one school year will always have to be determined using student-athlete numbers from the previous school year because more current data will not be available.

He said the cuts to some schools are unlikely to affect their athletic programs, but officials will monitor the situation throughout the year.

Sports programs

Jim Harrah of Boonsboro has supported establishing a lacrosse program at Boonsboro High School, and sent an e-mail to each member of the school board Tuesday saying that more equitable funding for athletics should start with equality in available sports at each school.

In his letter, which was endorsed by Keedysville resident Chris Frazier, who also has supported a lacrosse program for Boonsboro High, Harrah says lacrosse is offered at Smithsburg High, but not Boonsboro High.

No one spoke during Tuesday's public meeting on the topic.

A school with more programs, Harrah said, will have more availability for student participation and a greater share of the funding under the new formula.

Lacrosse supporters have been asked to help raise $20,000 to establish a program at Boonsboro High.

Ridenour said Tuesday that he believes lacrosse will be offered at the high school this year.

North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown and Smithsburg high schools offer each of the 15 sports available in Washington County, according to data provided by Washington County Public Schools.

Boonsboro High is one of four schools not offering lacrosse. Hancock Middle-Senior High offers 10 sports -- the least of any high school. It also has the smallest student population of any county high school.

Officials said the total number of teams in each sport may vary from year to year depending upon student interest.


The new formula was unanimously supported by principals at each of the seven high schools that receive sports funding.

Mike Tesla, athletic director at South Hagerstown High, said that although the school is expected to lose the most sports funding of any school -- $14,000 -- he does not expect the school's sports program to suffer.

"Yes, I think it's fair," he said of the new plan. "We do not have the athletes."

Tesla said that many students at South High do not try out for sports because they believe they cannot afford the $55 student athletic fee or additional equipment they might need. If a student has a hardship, the school will absorb the fees, Tesla said.

Board member Donna Brightman said the community, parents and others should have had more input on the new funding plan before it was adopted by the school board.

"When things are done in a more transparent way, there is less room for complaint or concern," she said.

How they voted

The Washington County Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a new sports funding plan:

President Wayne D. Ridenour -- Yes

Vice President Ruth Anne Callaham -- Yes

Paul W. Bailey -- Absent

Donna Brightman -- Yes

W. Edward Forrest -- Absent

Justin M. Hartings -- Yes

William H. Staley -- Yes

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