Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield: No way to keep existing athletic program
By Jim Hagerty
A host of parents, students and coaches gathered at Auburn High School Wednesday evening, Jan. 26, for a glimpse of what the District 205 athletic program could look like for the 2011-2012 school year.
The public forum was held by school administrators to give the community details about a possible sports partnership between the public school system and Rockford Park District.
Because the school district is facing a $50 million shortfall next year, the annual $3 million it spends on sports has no place in the 2012 budget.
According to Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield, an agreement with the park district has not been inked. However, the superintendent said sports will not remain the same next year.
“I have a $50 million budget hole,” Sheffield said Wednesday.
Sheffield said the only way to keep sports as they are would be to stop heating schools, shut down buses and make other non-sensible cuts. That, she said, isn’t going to happen.
Parents and students are caught in the middle, facing what some fear is a possibility of losing a longstanding sports program athletes cherish and depend on.
For some students, excelling in sports is a way to college scholarships. Without athletics, dreams of competing at a higher level while earning college degrees could be squashed.
Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke, a former Auburn High School athlete, said the partnership was put on the table to save what he believes is a valuable asset to students and the community.
Sports are responsible for where he is today, Dimke told the audience of about 150.
Meantime, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) may be the only thing standing in the way.
According to the IHSA, a park district merger could result in a program that would not be recognized by the state. The IHSA bylaws require school principals and athletic directors to be in charge of sports programs.
The IHSA prohibits teams managed by park districts from competing against sanctioned schools. Bylaws also state that coaches must be paid by the school district.
Dimke said the park district is involved in ongoing talks with the IHSA to make the new program work within state guidelines.
The alternative is to eliminate all sports until District 205 works through its financial crisis and can safely afford to field teams on the elementary, middle and high school levels.
A second public forum about the partnership is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 1, at Guilford High School. The program starts at 5:30 p.m.
Guilford High School is at 5620 Spring Creek Rd.
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