2012-07-05 / News

North Kingstown cuts freshman sports

Full-time athletic director now a part-time position
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

North Kingstown High School appears to have dropped freshman sports, effective this week, according to Dr. Thomas Kenworthy, the school’s principal.

Several sports programs have come under pressure due to a fi- nancial crisis that developed last year over school department budgeting errors, officials said earlier.

Among the problems, it was reported previously, the school administration had counted on settling a labor contract and realizing savings on health insurance premiums, but the contract wasn’t settled by the start of the school year in September, and the savings didn’t materialize when anticipated. The school department also overestimated the tuition payments for Jamestown students enrolling at North Kingstown. More islanders were expected to attend, but didn’t.

School officials worked through the year to avoid going into the red, which is illegal under Rhode Island law.

Jamestown school officials offered to provide North Kingstown’s school panel with in-house estimates of the number of students headed to North Kingstown.

Meanwhile, to save money, the North Kingstown School Committee voted to reorganize the athletic department and to stop funding some high school sports – specifi- cally, two varsity programs: coed ice hockey and gymnastics – and freshman sports.

In a telephone interview on Monday, Kenworthy confirmed all the sports programs could have continued, despite the school committee’s action, if parents and other organizations had stepped up and taken over the financing.

That outside funding may still arrive to save ice hockey and gymnastics, he said. They’re both winter programs, so there’s still time to organize. But so far, no one has come forward and it’s probably too late to rescue the fall programs for freshmen.

North Kingstown has offered freshman football and girls’ and boys’ basketball. About 30 students played freshman football, said Kenworthy, and he estimated another 30 or so played on the two freshman basketball teams. Of course, freshmen students can still go out for junior varsity, and that was part of the thinking when the school committee opted to cut the freshmen’s funding.

On Sunday, the new fiscal year began, and the North Kingstown School Committee’s cuts have now gone into effect.

The immediate result is, the district no longer has a full-time athletic director. Former Athletic Director James Marcello’s last day in the district was June 30, Kenworthy said. His duties have now been reassigned to several teachers.

At the high school, Howard Hague, math teacher and wrestling coach, is the new part-time athletic director. He will deal only with high-school sports. The two middle schools will be responsible for running their sports programs separately now, Kenworthy said.

“The middle schools are going to do their own thing,” he said.

Hague will split his work between teaching and being the parttime athletic director at the high school, Kenworthy said. The total savings from reorganizing the athletics department with a part-time director comes to $50,000, he said.

Kenworthy said the booster club could play a role in solving the money shortfall for ice hockey and gymnastics, but most likely the boosters wouldn’t be able to take over the financing.

Kenworthy said he didn’t want to speak for the booster club, but felt their mission was to spread their resources to help the greatest number of student-athletes as possible. The cost of ice hockey alone could eat up most of the group’s finances, he said.

A better solution would be to have a “core group” of parents and supporters emerge around ice hockey and gymnastics, he said.

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