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School board plays hot potato with sports fees, pass onto Moccia

South Whidbey School Board members Steve Scoles and Linda Racicot listen to a presentation from the South Whidbey Youth Football Association during the May 23 business meeting. The youth football teams may be an option for middle school aged students to play, if the school district cuts the team at Langley Middle School.   - Ben Watanabe / The Record
South Whidbey School Board members Steve Scoles and Linda Racicot listen to a presentation from the South Whidbey Youth Football Association during the May 23 business meeting. The youth football teams may be an option for middle school aged students to play, if the school district cuts the team at Langley Middle School.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — A decision to raise the cost for South Whidbey athletes to pass the pigskin was dropped by the South Whidbey School Board.

Rather than voting on how to increase fees to play on Langley Middle School or South Whidbey High School sports teams, the school board passed the buck to District Superintendent Jo Moccia. After some research into district policy, board member Jill Engstrom discovered athletics fees and code fall under the domain of the superintendent.

“We couldn’t make an educated decision based on the information we have,” Engstrom said.

“I abhor having this ‘pay-to-play’ situation for our schools.”

Moccia admitted she was unfamiliar with that part of her duty until Engstrom recently brought the policy to her attention. Moccia will review three options created by the athletic director at the high school before selecting an increase.

“My apologies for bringing it to the board and putting you in that situation,” Moccia said. “These are decisions that are within the superintendent’s purvey.”

Fees at Langley Middle School will increase for ASB and sports. Seventh and eighth graders will pay $20 for ASB cards and $50 per sport, with a $150 family limit. Students who receive reduced lunch will pay $15, and free lunch families will have sports fees waived.

Earlier in May, South Whidbey Athletic Director Scott Mauk proposed raising the athletics fees to $100 per sport, with a waiver for a student-athlete that plays three sports seasons in one academic year. The original $50 increase was deemed too steep by some of the board members, and Mauk devised two other options. Under the second plan, every sport would have an $80 fee, and Associated Student Body fees which pay for dances, assemblies, clubs and other student activities, would increase from $20 to $25. The third option would cost $80 for every sport except football, which would have a $100 fee.

The proposal to charge more for high school sports drew the ire of one public commenter at the board’s business meeting Wednesday. Eric Hood criticized the district for looking at the comparisons Mauk made between South Whidbey and other schools in its athletic league, the Cascade Conference, such as Archbishop Murphy, King’s, Cedarcrest and Coupeville. Archbishop Murphy and King’s are both private schools, and have higher athletics fees.

“Sports fees mean little to parents who can afford private tuition,” Hood said.

He added: “Fees of any kind are not justified at a public school.”

A possible solution to reducing some sports costs presented itself during the public comment period. Jean Streitler and Bree Nelson informed the five-member school board and Moccia of the South Whidbey Youth Football Association which fields teams for middle school-aged youths. The two Pee Wee and Midget football representatives highlighted the league’s cost at $180, which covers the uniform and helmet, but not travel, cleats or a mouth guard.

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