Wilmot school board approves co-ed hockey, boys volleyball

Wilmot Union HSAt tonight’s Wilmot Union High School District board of education meeting, co-ed hockey was approved.  Dan Kopp, district administrator, said that meetings were held with 15 sets of parents and the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) coordinator of athletics/physical education, Steven Knecht.  “The issue,” Kopp said, “is where to get the money.  This is requiring a paradigm shift to a ‘pay-to-play’ philosophy.  The fee for sign-up has never been supported.  Twelve percent of school districts operate under that.  The goal here,” Kopp said, “is how to convince you to pay for, or have the parents pay part, and you the rest.”

Kopp continued, “In this time of tight budgets, there is one way the parents can help, and that is to shoulder the burden.  The KUSD charges $1,800 for each hockey player.  They charge half to the parent, and half to KUSD.  Therefore, the cost is $900/participant.”  Knecht told them at the October meeting that they’re finding it hard to field two teams.  They want to get 26 players, two solid teams, 15-person squads.  They take into account the coaches’ salaries, transportation, ice time, etc., add all of that up, and divide by the number of players.  The estimated costs were $24,905, plus $25,000 for ice time, which can vary.  The cost came to $1,800/student this year.

Melissa Horack, from Trevor, spoke to the board on the topic of Wilmot High School (WHS) merging forces with the Kenosha Thunder hockey team.  She gave the reasons that she thought this was a good thing.  “First of all, it’s a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) sport.  (The WIAA is the regulatory body for all high school sports in Wisconsin.)  They are held to a higher standard, and athletes can obtain a school letter.  It is an already established program; no new start-up is required.  It’s a cost-effective program.  “It can’t be beat,” she said. And, they operate out of a state-of-the-art facility, the RecPlex IcePlex in Pleasant Prairie.  They have a new off-ice room, and it’s only 15.4 miles away.

She said that Knecht spoke with the group and answered all of their questions.  She understands that the financing is a budget obstacle, and that there is no room for extras.  She was asking the board to let the hockey student pay.  “It’s a prudent fact that students involved in sports leads to student achievement.”  Next year, she estimated that three hockey players would join the Kenosha Thunder team, for a total cost of $2,700.  She was advocating for the children’s success.

Michael Faber was asking if the KUSD split the cost per participant, and the answer was yes.  He wanted to know how many players would be coming up in the next four-year period, possibly 2 to 3 each year.  Kopp said that, if the proposal was approved tonight, it would go before the KUSD board in January, with plenty of time to meet the April 1st deadline for application.

Nadine Slowinski, president of the school board, wanted to know what would happen with other sports.  Kopp replied that they would be addressed in the future.  Eighty percent of the districts currently charge $35 to $40, a small amount.

Faber wanted to know about Central.  A Salem resident spoke out and said that last fall he was told that he would be contacted by Central, but this hasn’t happened yet.  They are waiting to see what the Wilmot school board does before they decide.

Jerry Christiansen, the associate principal of athletics/activities, said that part of the discussion with the KUSD was that they would put the co-op in place with no one else.  There would be two teams only.  They were looking to unify with only one school.  Westosha Central would not be included.

Marcie Badtke, clerk, said that she was surprised that twelve percent don’t charge fees.  Christiansen said that there is a WIAA study on fees which is on their website.  There are costs associated for other sports, not for signing up.

Wayne Trongeau, vice president of the board, wanted to know how kids who can’t afford the money would be handled.  Parents of hockey players spoke up, saying that this would not be an issue.  They know the amount of money that is involved in playing hockey.  Students who play baseball start young; hockey is not the same.  “Kids have a dream,” one parent said.  “They want to play for their school, for their community.  They are willing to pay.  That’s an important point to remember.  The RecPlex is a fantastic organization.  It’s clean, and comes with high remarks.  The coaches teach life lessons, which are important as the kids grow up.”

Slowinski wanted to know if the costs would increase as the years go by.  Kopp replied that the board will decide.  They can review it periodically.  “Five years from now, if there are 8 players, the cost could be $1,500.  The board would have to decide if the cost would be split 50/50, or in some other ratio.   Based on the numbers we just heard from David Betz, the business manager, adding $3,000 to the projected deficit of $317,162 would give us a deficit of $320,000.”

A member of the Kenosha Komets spoke up.  He said that they have been offering for four years to work with the students.  Their costs are less per hour on the ice, they have private locker rooms, two teams, and the students can skate at their own levels.  Plus, we have no coach that was suspended this year for unfair practices.  The costs are the same.  The students can succeed at a higher level.  They played the most tournaments in the nation, they played on Notre Dame’s ice.  They are a non-profit organization that has been around for a long time.

Badtke wanted to know if it was possible that Wilmot students wouldn’t be able to participate because there were too many KUSD students.  Christiansen said that was a sheer possibility.  The students have to earn their positions.  “Plus,” Christiansen said, “Knecht told us that there is a ‘no cut policy’ on co-op teams.”

Another mother spoke up.  She said that she wasn’t happy with the Komets, but that she was happy with the RecPlex.  She is paying the cost now.  She has spent $2,000 to $3,000 on just equipment alone for her son.  She stated that she is willing to pay more.  She’d like her son to play for the high school he went to.

Faber had another question for Christiansen.  “Who is responsible for hiring and firing the coaches?  Because if a coach skirts lines and then crosses it, they’re gone.”  Christiansen stated that one school district is put in charge.  He would be in contact with Knecht, the athletic director.  “He is an upstanding guy.  I don’t know the situation he just spoke of.”  Kopp said that they (KUSD) would retain control, but they would be receptive to our point of view if something were to happen.

Faber made a motion to approve the proposal and try out the relationship with Kenosha.  Their costs were not to exceed 50%, or $900/student.  If there were more children to become involved, the cost may go down.  It was seconded by Barbara Tietz.  The roll call vote was 6 to 1.  Faber wanted a complete review of all athletic activities come spring.  Christiansen said that they need to be careful with Title IX, making sure that there is equality, an equal opportunity for both sexes.  “We need to keep a balance.  We will re-evaluate all sports, review for costs.  We may have to start charging fees with all of the budget constraints,” he said.

The other sport discussed at the meeting was boys’ volleyball.  There are 30 who want to participate.  Central and Burlington High Schools have solid teams.  They would need $6,000 for coaches and travel.  They already have a court.  If approved, games would start next fall.  There would be a freshman and junior varsity squads only.  They would add a varsity squad as well.  Based on the numbers, adding $6,000 to the projected deficit of $320,000 would give us a deficit of $326,000.

Slowinski wanted to know if Christiansen thought there was a Title IX issue.  He said no.  “Football is co-ed.  It’s the same as hockey; it’s offered to both.  As a school, we pay the same amount for each sport.  There are two main aspects of Title IX:  the number of sports offering, the size of the locker rooms, and the amount of money spent on male/female sports.  The amount cannot be more than other sports.”

When asked about the numbers involved, Christiansen said that there were 13 girls freshmen, 12 on the junior varsity, and 12 on the varsity team.  They had to cut a few in each.  Westosha has 48 freshman boys.  “Could the $6,000 go up?”  “No, it is a set fee,” said Christiansen.  “It’s based on paying for the coach and the competition.  It is not a per student fee.  If, in the future, a varsity team is added, there may be an additional cost at that time,” he said.

The board unanimously voted to approve the boys volleyball.


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