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School board grapples with athletics

Athletics dominated the agenda at a school board meeting in Silver Bay this week.

The Lake Superior School District spent a considerable amount of time on the topic on Tuesday night, including discussions about the cheerleadng team and a debate over whether cutting games from the athletic schedules as a viable cost-cutting strategy.

The board approved a request by the Two Harbors cheerleading team to be included under the high school’s umbrella as a sport. Currently, the team is organized through community education. Coach Melanie Ross said that this has worked well for the fledgling program, but the change would give more girls the opportunity to join.

Operating as a high school sport would allow the team to offer scholarships to help cover the $175 activity fee for lower income students. Community education also takes a cut of that money to cover administrative costs, which could be avoided if cheerleading became a high school program. The program is self-sufficient, and would not cost the district money, Ross said.

“We don’t do it for the money,” she said, adding that the coaches receive no stipend, unlike other high school sport coaches. “We do it because we love it.”

The board also moved forward with a request to create a cooperative girls’ hockey team. Currently, only Silver Bay has a girls’ team and although seven of the incoming 22 players are from Two Harbors, all games and practices are held in Silver Bay. Creating a cooperative would split the practices and games 50/50 between the two communities.

The board referred the issue to the policy committee, where an official cooperative policy for shared sports could be developed. In the meantime, the board told the athletic directors to proceed with scheduling and recruiting for a new coach, since its intention is to create a cooperative.

“By having a policy in place ... (it will help) us when people bring suggestions to us,” William Kelley High School principal Joe Nicklay said.

He suggested requiring that that at least 30 percent of players come from each community in order for the team to remain a cooperative. He said that this would ensure that other sports would not be forced to become a cooperative to accommodate just a few students who have to travel to practices.

Finally, the board discussed ways to save money within the athletic department. A heated discussion erupted when board members suggested dropping some games from various sports schedules to save money. According to administrators, home games can cost hundreds of dollars.

“One thing that we’ve all got to understand ... everyone is going to have to take a hit one way or another,” board member Tom Burns said of the budgeting process. “Everybody’s going to feel the pain.”

The athletic directors from both Silver Bay and Two Harbors said it would be difficult to cut games from next year’s schedule, since they already have signed contracts for the fall season and are in the process of finalizing the winter schedule.

“We do look for ways to keep costs down,” said Scott Ross, the athletic director in Two Harbors. “(And) the community has been unbelievably generous.”

Roger Koster, Silver Bay the athletic director, said Silver Bay and Two Harbors booster clubs each raise about $30,000 per year to offset the cost of high school sports. He also said fees in the district are some of the highest in the Polar League. Students pay $175 per sport, with no family cap.

He added that other districts charge around $50 per sport, with a family cap of around $100 and that other athletic directors in the league and their communities raise much less money for sports each year.

“You’re getting a tremendous amount for the dollars that you spend,” said Koster.

Other meeting highlights

A “location optional levy” will go into effect this summer if the board takes no action. The state-approved property tax levy will give the district up to $424 per pupil, beginning in 2014-15. The board has the option to reject the money or limit the amount. Business manager Lance Takkunen said that when the county and state release market rate information for the area, he will look at the numbers to see how this levy could affect the average property owner.

• Two substitute teachers brought a pay increase request to the board. The pay raise for subs in the district was sent to the policy and personnel committee. The teachers asked that the board instate an annual cost-of-living increase for subs, too.

• Three William Kelley Elementary School teachers and a cohort of their students demonstrated the reading education methods currently used at the school.

• The board approved a number of resignations and retirements. Lorre Youngquist, Dennis Prestidge and Joanne Swenson, all former bus drivers, retired. THHS math teacher Marion Carrr also retired. The two head hockey coaches have both resigned. Shawn Bartlette, the coach for the boys’ team, and Bruce Carman, the coach for the girls’ team, gave up their positions this year.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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