After several meetings, gnashing of teeth, and another 80 minutes of discussion, the Jackson County Board of Education responded to questions about middle school sports.
At its regular meeting at Smoky Mountain Elementary School on Tuesday, the board voted to keep all athletic opportunities in Jackson County Public Schools intact for both school-based and district teams.
There were warnings and board members issued challenges to attendees.
The standing-only raucous crowd expressed displeasure when board member Wes Jamison read the terms for maintaining school-based sports, especially those that prioritized district teams at practice facilities within schools.
A member of the board of directors also told the audience to basically “speak and pay.”
The evening began with a dance from Bob’s Cherokee Culture class for Pre-K through 2nd grade. Board members participated in a meandering dance across the gym floor.
The Board voted to extend the public comment period beyond the normal 30 minutes to give everyone who signed up a voice.
Most of these 17 speakers advocated making opportunities for both sports, especially school-based teams, available.
Many of those who approached the microphone were young people.
Gracie Buck told those gathered that she wants to be the Lady Mustang who will be attending high school in the eighth grade next year. I requested.
“For those of us who want to play at a higher level, we need to be challenged,” she said.
Many adults cited the specter of drugs as a reason to stay in sports-based sports.
“Kids in this county don’t have enough opportunities yet,” said Trevor Sutton, a parent and middle school coach. “Take school-based sports, what are they going to do? Drugs, alcohol, and other life-threatening addictions? They’re going to spend more time physically inactive.”
Following the public comment, members of the Board of Directors provided their views.
Board chair Elizabeth Cooper slammed the gavel three times to calm the crowd and Jamison insisted that only the district’s sports programs be kept active.
“Just because you’re playing for a school district and not an individual school doesn’t change the fact that you’re an Eagle, a Tar Heel, a Wolf and a Cardinal,” said Executive Director Abigail Clayton.
Citing the need for coaches and bus drivers and other necessary staff, she challenged the crowd to join.
“Maybe you’re a coach,” she said as an example. “Could you get me a bus license to transport the team?”
“Our children, as adults, absolutely need to be proactive in doing everything they can to make sure they get every chance to sit down and play,” said board member Kim Moore. Are you going to come out tonight, or are you going to reach out to coaches and athletic directors, and are you going to flood their emails and phone calls not only to keep the sport going, but to help them when they need help? Is it?”
Mr. Jamison outlined two motions for the Board to vote on. One keeps or eliminates district sports and the other keeps or eliminates school-based sports.
The vote to keep the district program passed 4 to 1, with Director Lynn Dillard dissenting.
Jamison then read out the conditions for keeping the school-based team.
Each sport must have at least two teams, and athletes competing in only one team will not be eligible for district team tryouts.
“Additionally, when it comes to facilities, district teams are prioritized over school-based teams,” he said as the crowd began murmuring dissenting opinions and shouting questions.
The motion passed 3 to 2, with Jamison and Moore opposing.
Moore voted against the motion because she felt the school didn’t have to vacate its facilities, she said.
After some discussion, Dillard suggested that the motion be amended to keep sports in school, but without conditions. voted.
Several speakers spoke positively about middle school, a concept re-emerging within the county and fully endorsed by Superintendent Dana Ayers.
“We were able to offer our kids so much more in a traditional middle school environment,” she said in an interview Wednesday morning. Think of the opportunities to expand our myriad CTE offerings in choral programs, agriculture, robotics, STEAM, business, and more. I hope there will be more power, not to mention better academic performance in core subjects if each school of mathematics, reading, science, etc. does not have what I call a “singleton” teacher. ”
Ayers said JCPS is one of six school districts in the state without middle schools.