In Apr. 24-30 issue
By Greg Wells
Times Journal Managing EditorABOVE: Wesley Evans voiced his concern about the soccer program during the school board meeting.
JAMESTOWN - There will not be a soccer program for the next two years, and as many as 16 teachers could lose their jobs as budget problems have struck the Russell County School District, like they have most Kentucky schools.
And there is more belt-tightening to come.
"There will be a reduction of 10 or possibly 15 teachers or aids," Superintendent Scott Pierce told the board at this month's meeting.
He said he was committed to keeping the district's low student-to-teacher ratio, but with the legislature not fully funding the approximately 8 percent raise mandated last year and none of the 1 percent raise required this year, the district is facing tough times.
"You might get a pay raise but it will cost someone their job," Pierce seemingly said to the district's teachers.
Pierce added that as the Commonwealth has been tightening their belt, the cost of operating the district has been going up drastically because of run-away fuel prices as well as double digit inflation in some food stuffs.
He compared the prices between this March and last March.
"Gas is up 26 percent. Bread is up 14.7 percent and milk is up 15.2 percent," Pierce said.
He explained that cutting the soccer program was the recommendation of the district's athletic director, Rita Branscum, but he said there are other cuts he is looking for in the other sports.
"We want as many teachers in classes as we can," Pierce said, stressing his and the board's commitment to education over athletics when push comes to shove in the budget crunch.
"Ten thousand dollars in travel for the golf teams last year," Pierce sited. "That won't happen again."
Funding for all the sports, football, basketball and others are fair game, he has said.
The soccer issue drew comments from the crowd gathered for meeting Monday night.
Wesley Evans, a local businessman, said he has his own budgets to meet but always has something for the teams when they come looking for help.
He pointed out that the coach cut the grass on the field. "The players set up the bleachers, they lined their own field," Evans said.
With many of the boys and girls games being played away, the bulk of the program's cost was fuel for the busses to transport them.
Evans asked for the vote to be postponed.
"How would you like to be in these kids shoes and have to sit here and watch you vote it away," Evans said to the board. "Give us and opportunity to get these kids where they need to go."
Zachary Sales, a sophomore on the team, said they had collected 200 signatures in the school in support of the soccer program.
Senior player Chris Lawless said he'd been playing 14 years and because of the program he was offered a chance to play on one of the United States Marine's soccer teams instead of going to Iraq or Afghanistan after his training.
The supporters asked that if the cost of transportation and the girls' team's inability to field a team were the problems why not allow a co-ed team.
Board member Wayne Gosser voiced his support for Pierce's position that the district would not allow a co-ed team because of their belief that it would endanger the female students.
Pierce added that he didn't know of enough teams fielding co-ed teams for the school to compete against.
In the end the vote was 5-0 in favor of the proposition suspending soccer for two years and reducing the administrative staff's pay by two days as well as cutting coaches' pay.
As to the cuts in teaching staff the board didn't announce any specifics, but passed along new guidelines to the schools' site-based committees regarding the calculations for how many teachers and teaching aids the schools would be allowed next year.
In other actions the board—
• Approved a grant to fund relocation of the entry road at the middle school.
• Approved a grant program, "the Summer Feeding Program," which allows anyone under 18-years-old to come to the Russell Springs Elementary for a free breakfast and lunch from June 5 to July 26.
• Approved Wilderness Studios of Glasgow as the photographer for next year's school pictures.
• Selected Jostens as the year book provider for the middle school and elementary schools. Walsworth was selected as the provider for the high school.