Who knew that instituting a free, 100% community supported program that expands co-curricular or extracurricular opportunities for both boy and girl public high school students in our community could meet such strong headwinds?
But it has.
Last week, we received word that the Superintendents of both Unit5 and District87 met with select members of their boards of education and the Athletic Directors of both districts to discuss adding lacrosse to the Spring 2019 varsity roster.
Based on a number of factors, including several that are outside our control, they have come to a unanimous decision to not hear our request for adding a varsity cooperative lacrosse program until additional research is done and some elements of our proposal are reviewed and discussed in more detail.
On Friday, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Daniel of Unit5 and Dr. Reilly of District87 to review and discuss their decision.
In short, while they favor co-curricular activities and the consideration of adding lacrosse as an IHSA sport, until the cost structures and budgets are understood (whether funded fully by the community or not) they cannot support moving ahead especially when the districts are struggling with structural deficits in their education funds.
Through the dialog and discussion, it was clear the answer is not “No”, just “Not now, maybe in 2020.” Both Superintendents shared that the option and opportunity to continue working with the school districts to review and socialize the idea with the boards of education exists; and they encouraged us to continue working to prepare for a board presentation during the spring/summer of 2019 (to take the field in the spring of 2020).
I shared that engaging the school boards sooner rather than later is our preference as we have been working to that end for several months. Dr. Daniel has offered to help coordinate these sessions so we have set some additional follow-ups and dialogs to stay on that path over the winter months.
Clearly, this is not the outcome we and many in our lacrosse community had hoped for or worked toward over the last six months. We are disappointed for our players, families and the groups that have worked hard to support us on this journey.
The challenges facing our community schools are real and for those of us with students in our households; we see and hear about it every day. There are educational and school safety concerns, health and well being issues, funding and budgetary constraints pressuring the groups within the districts we need to support us. Until the risks they are perceiving are addressed…they are just not in a position to consider our request. So that must continue to be our focus.
With that said, we are going to attack these next steps like it’s a loose ground ball. We believe strongly in the co-op model we have created. We have quietly raised the funds for the start-up and season one expenses (through our pledges and the support of a local, private foundation), helped identify qualified coaches, collaborated with the Athletic Directors of both districts to build a comprehensive budget, and have a strong Warriors club program that will feed players into the high school teams now and in the future.
We believe that athletics complement and enrich a student's academic experience and are integral to every student’s education and personal growth. To that end, creating additional opportunities for more high school student-athletes in a way that does not divert resources away from programs funded through the education fund, all while not increasing the public tax burden…just makes good sense.
We will continue to keep you updated on our progress.