At forum on Monday, Raider families voice concerns over proposed athletic cuts

With the future of a few Immaculata sports hanging in the balance, numerous families gathered Monday in hopes of saving the trio from the chopping block.

Just over a week and half ago, the Leavenworth Regional Catholic Schools administration announced it was exploring the idea of cutting soccer, golf and tennis, beginning next fall.

The reasons presented included three main points ― budget concerns, a lack of participation and the school’s new league affiliation, which starts next school year.

And so, in front of nearly 80 concerned parents, students and supporters inside Immaculata High School Monday, district administrators explained how and why they reached this conclusion in two different forums.

The administrators included acting superintendent and Xavier Elementary principal Karen Davis, Immaculata High School principal Helen Schwinn and Immaculata athletic director Sean Sachen.

“What our finance council has really pushed for is a balanced budget,” Davis said. “For it to be a balance budget, we did have to make cuts across the board.”

This past January, Davis and Schwinn submitted an overall budget together, which was returned by the finance council with guidance “to reduce every area possible by a given percent,” according to Davis.

A second draft was then created in February with that input in mind, and thus came about the notion of eliminating the three sports.

The presentation included what considerations were taken to select these athletics, such as:

* What sports are offered by other schools in the new conference?

* What sports help counterbalance expenses with gate monies?

* What sports might possibly be offered through co-operation?

The new league, the Northeast Kansas League, has two out of its nine schools besides Immaculata whom offer golf, one other school that offers soccer and no other member who offers tennis according to the presentation.

Schwinn stated that no income is gained from golf or tennis, while soccer’s gates have been unsuccessful. Lastly, co-op opportunities in golf and tennis are possible according to the high school principal, but unlikely for soccer.

“Contact with Leavenworth High School has been positive for golf and tennis,” Schwinn said. “Soccer is a different note. As a team sport, they would have to add our entire enrollment. When they add our 120, that would push them up to 6A.”

She also said phone calls were made to Lansing, but presently, nothing had materialized.
While figures were not included in the presentation, Davis did state that the cuts would

hold a savings of 11.5 percent, right around $12,000, if all three sports were eliminated.

“It was never our intent in balancing the budget to take anything away,” Schwinn said. “I’m just asking you, what are the solutions?”

The parent and student responses, while varied in nature, all called for the same action Monday ― save the sports.

Raiders’ tennis coach Manuel Hernandez, who spoke in the first session that had around 30 people in attendance, replied quickly to the three considerations. After explaining the expenditures used to finance his program, Hernandez dissected the other two points

“Tennis has never been affected by our league,” he said. “And you are not going to find the opportunity to play at the bigger schools like you do here.”

Several parents in the crowd joined him:

* “Why eliminate this individual sport that is really peanuts compared to other sports like football?”

* “I know I’m willing to throw in a case of tennis balls. I understand why the school needs to cut money. What I don’t understand is why tennis?

* “The learning continues on the court… It doesn’t stop in the classroom.”

Lastly, after parents began complaining about a lack of transparency shown, a parent stated, “You are making cuts and it doesn’t hold water. It’s only the tip of the iceberg. You are going to lose people if this doesn’t stop.”

At the end of the hour and 15 minute discussion, Imac junior Phillip Hernandez presented 86 student signatures from the 120-person school in support of saving the athletics.

Five minutes later, the same presentation was given to the soccer contingent that had just under 50 in attendance, which included families from the first meeting.

In the second session, figures detailing the lack of schools offering soccer in Class 4-1A (238) were shown along with the other previous mentioned slides. Out of the 38 schools that offer the sport, 29 are 4A, four are 3A, four are 2A and one is 1A.

Immaculata is the only 2A team to offer both soccer and football.

While those numbers were debated for a little bit, the conversation quickly moved toward solutions. Out of that, an idea for corporate sponsorship was presented as well as increase fundraising.

The most accepted concept was one that called for the formation of the “Green Machine”, an aggressive booster-like group. However, it would be more than just a fundraising group. It would also include support for local Catholic entities, community service projects and special events, and student-athletes participating in community outreach.

“Let’s make this bad news story into a good news story,” one of its proponents said. “It’s time to roll the sleeves up and get to work.”

After an hour of discussion, Davis said she would present the ideas and thoughts from the evening’s forums in a board meeting today. From there, a course of action would be laid out.

Still, it was unclear if the concerned parents would be given a chance to enact a rescue plan, whatever that may be. No time frame was presented, either, on when a final decision or the money would be due by.

Nevertheless, at the end of the session, there certainly seemed to be an air of hope that the fight to save these sports would at least live to see another day.

“This is a step,” Schwinn said. “This is a step and our No. 1 step is how are we going to remain a balance budget while offering these sports. We need to find a solution.”