2009-02-12 / News

High school athletic department faces $70K cut

Reductions could affect 167 island athletes
By Adrienne Downing

The North Kingstown School Committee is scheduled to vote tonight on a $70,000 athletic budget cut that will affect close to 700 high school athletes, including 167 Jamestown athletes, which make up approximately 45 percent of the student body.

The committee is faced with a $2.3 million budget deficit, and is considering some drastic reductions. But, some student-athlete's parents feel that the proposed cut is not in line with what is being asked of other departments at the school.

According to the North Kingstown School Department website, the total projected budget is $60.1 million, of which the athletic budget is 1 percent, or $695,000. By comparison, the district spends more than 18 percent, or $12.1 million, of its budget for special education.

A good part of the special education budget is state mandated, School Committee Chairman Larry Ceresi said. He said it is time for the athletic department to do its part. "Last year we cut over $2 million and 10 teacher's jobs from the budget and didn't touch athletics," he said.

A review of last year's final budget reveals the school committee cut $20,000, which was half of the department clerk's job. Coaches also did not receive salary increases, which are negotiated as part of the teacher's contract. Every other department, including extracurricular activities advisors, received raises.

Last year was the third straight year of cuts to the department. The athletic department had $50,000 cut in the 2006-2007 school year and $30,000 in 2005- 2006.

The school committee directed Superintendent Phil Thornton and Athletic Director Keith Kenyon to propose a budget-reducing program by $70,000. Their recommendations included cutting the remainder of the clerk's job, combining the two middle schools into one sports team for each sport and eliminating freshman sports at the high school. The school committee, however, did not accept the cuts, and directed Thornton to conduct a study of administrative costs in other districts. The athletic director's contract was tabled, along with the district principal's contracts at Tuesday night's meeting.

Ceresi said that although the school committee prefers not to micromanage department heads, he wants to look at areas that have the least impact on face time with students.

Comparatively, North Kingstown falls well within the range of other districts statewide.

The five schools that are consistently at the top of the state academic rankings, based on standardized test scores, all have full time athletic directors. Additional responsibilities that fall under the athletic directors' job description vary from district to district.

In Barrington, the athletic director works 225 days per year and serves as the school's events coordinator. With a student population of 1,095, the cost per student to salary ratio is $71.30.

Portsmouth and East Greenwich both have full-time athletic directors who serve 1,059 and 735 students respectively.

"We have to compare apples to apples," Ceresi said, "Barrington is a much smaller district than NK."

The closest "apples to apples" comparison to North Kingstown is South Kingstown. The two schools are traditionally very close scholastically and athletically. The SK director makes a reported $98,000 a year and is responsible for the school nurses and the physical education department. His per student ratio for 1,282 students is $76.44.

The North Kingstown athletic director is contracted for 260 work days, responsible for 1,595 students and earns approximately $7,000 less than his South Kingstown counterpart. The NK ratio is $57.46.

A large part, approximately 35 percent, of Kenyon's responsibility is not directly related to athletics. He is also the director of student activities, a job that fell under the principal's responsibilities until 2001.

Under the student activities heading, he is responsible for the 24 hours a day, seven days a week scheduling of the high school building, including school and non-school related users. He also orders all furniture for the building, supervises or arranges supervision of all dances and athletic contests and supervises two lunch periods each day. Teachers are not contractually allowed to serve "lunch duty."

He is a member of the school's administration team and oversees the junior and senior proms, homecoming and graduation.

Student activities responsibilities are not ones that can go unfilled, Ceresi and Kenyon both said.

Should there be a cut in the athletic director position, Ceresi said the school committee would have to look at the option of the student activities responsibilities being returned to the principal.

NK School committee member Kimberly Page said that while she would rather not see athletic cuts made, she felt the choices Kenyon made were responsible ones. "We want kids to participate, to get exercise and to keep it at the level it is," she said. "Unfortunately, some things are contractual, so we have to work with what we can. I think we can only cut so deep and it is a shame that we have to focus on such a small part of our budget."

"If you look at the numbers on any one department, we try to be frugal and even handed in our approach," the school committee chairman said.

Ceresi said he hopes the public will weigh in during the budget process.

"We want to hear what people have to say," Ceresi said. "When we are not having budget talks, we look out in the audience and there is no one there. I encourage people to come out and be involved."

The school committee meeting will take place in the School Committee Room at the Central Administration Office located at 100 Fairway Drive in North Kingstown, at 7 p.m. tonight. The North Kingstown school budget can be found online at www.nksd.net, under reference.

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