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Intramural basketball rejected

By Lloyd Jones

CONWAY — The Conway School Board has voted against using $5,000 in gate receipt money from this fall to fund a boys' and girls' intramural basketball program, which would have started Jan. 5. Given the likelihood of an escalating 2013-14 budget, some board members felt those funds could be better served elsewhere.
The board voted 4-3 not to use the gate receipts, which had been accrued from four home football games this fall, to fund the basketball. Lynne Brydon, Kelley Murphy and Janine McLauchlan were in the minority on the vote, which did generate quite a bit of discussion before a final decision was reached.
John Skelton, chair of the board's co-curricular committee, said the committee overwhelmingly supported using gate receipts for the program, but he abstained from voting at its Oct. 26 meeting, wanting to think about the matter more.
On Monday night Skelton said he wholeheartedly supported the concept of an intramural program at the high school but could not support using gate receipts at this time to fund it.
"For intramurals to receive that money when additional programs still go unserved I can't support using the receipts," he said. "It's a great idea, I think the source (of funding) could be different, it could be fund-raised. I'd like to see (the motion) defeated."
The Kennett girls' and boys' basketball programs have started practicing and both squads had large turnouts. At a parent/student meeting two weeks ago, boys' varsity basketball coach Steve Cote had 60 boys sign up for the program.
"Our numbers have just ballooned," Neal Moylan, principal of Kennett High, said last week. "It's a good problem to have, but it's a problem. In order for everyone to have an opportunity to play we believe it's best that we implement an intramural program."
Moylan had proposed using gate receipts in the amount of $5,000 to begin the program on Jan. 5, and has also put that amount in his 2013-14 budget.
He submitted a financial breakdown to the school board in early November. He predicted the program could service as many as 50 boys and girls. Those playing intramurals would not be involved in the high school boys' and girls' programs.
Moylan projected it would cost $1,000 for reversible jerseys and short; $1,000 for a commissioner/coordinator; $800 for four team coaches at $200 each; $1,950 ($75 per day) for two officials over seven weeks, with games played on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings; and $250 for championship shirts and a trophy.
Superintendent Carl Nelson supported the recommendation and brought the request before the school board Nov. 20. There is currently $5,365 in the gate receipt fund, all raised from four home football games this fall.
Board member Rick Breton spoke against the gate receipts and wondered if the program could be made more cost effective. He questioned the need for $1,000 for uniforms; a trophy; paid coaches; and thought the athletic director could fill the roll of commissioner/coordinator at a cost savings.
"It seems like this is well beyond your basic intramurals," he said. "With everything coming at us (this budget season), and we're looking at trying to get a teacher back into Pine Tree, I think there are a lot more important things than intramurals at this time."
The board learned Monday the proposed 2013-14 budget was up about $1.3 million over this year, not counting a possible $1 million in proposed special articles. Nelson also alerted the board Monday that tuition revenues may be down approximately $600,000.
Murphy, who voted to use the receipts, spoke passionately about the need to "find a hook" for every student and while the classroom might be it for many, to some that hook was athletics.
"We have to remember that our students truly come first and foremost," she said. "For some, it's well beyond the classroom that they find their hook whether it's on the stage or the playing fields. It's these connections that are so important, and I don't want us to lose focus of that."

Editor's note: Lloyd Jones is an at-large member of the Conway School Board's co-curricular committee.
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