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LETTER TO EDITOR: Extracurriculars important to public schools

Over the past couple of weeks the local newspaper has printed three (3), quarter page "letters to the editor". Since most readers fit into the 3 second (headlines), 30 second (lead paragraph), or 3 minute category it is safe to say that letters longer than 3 minutes seldom get read. In response to last week's quarter page editorial here is a brief response: The writer is correct, kids not involved in activities can be focused, motivated, and successful. We have a number of students that fit this category.

What the writer misses in this discussion, however, is that on the average, kids in activities (arts, athletics, and academic extracurricular) have higher GPAs, attend school at a much higher rate, have fewer drug and alcohol issues, fewer issues with the law, fewer school discipline issues and experience fewer teen pregnancies. This is true locally, statewide and nationally. Cut student activities and it is conceivable that we'll soon be paying more for additional county employees with titles such as chemical dependency counselor, probation officer, and social worker. In short, extracurricular involvement is our community's best and cheapest prevention program.

The writer attempts to make a case that the school district has nine "full-time coaches". That is not close to being true, we don't hire a single full-time coach, for that you would need to travel to Texas and visit a high school football program. I think what she meant to say is that not all of our coaches/directors are full-time school employees. For a school our size to have only nine coaches from outside of the system is rare. Having said that, those we have are outstanding coaches and mentors for our kids. I am thankful they work part time for the district.

The writer would like to have the public believe that coaches or directors are overpaid. Depending on the level of the program and type of activity, most of our people are paid between $5-$10 per hour; at, or near minimum wage. Quality coaches and directors are hard to come by due to the hours they work, the criticism they endure, and the time away from their own family to be a mentor to someone else's child.

The writer suggests that the levy is all going to athletics; this goes beyond uninformed to the point of manipulation. For the past 10 years our school district has been in a financial tailspin. What we spend on student extracurricular activities amounts to less than 3 percent of our budget. Cutting all activities would not fix our problems and would only add to the problem by having some of our most successful, motivated students transfer to neighboring schools.

I am obviously biased, but if there is a more important job in our community than teaching our youth I can't imagine what it would be. If there is a more important mission or institution in our community than our school, again I can't imagine what it would be.

In the end, I am thankful that the author of last week's letter chose to put her concerns in print. It provided a wonderful opportunity to respond to questions that others may have considered.

For the three minute reader I am including an article that has run three times over the past few years; I am sending it again with updates due to the fact that the same questions continue to be asked. While it is a bit lengthy it may be helpful to voters. (The detailed explanation of the Activities Dept. is in the "EOT Illustrated" section this week.)

Fred Sailer

Activities Director, Area Learning Center Director;

Buildings and Grounds and Community Education Director