Last Tuesday, the Warwick school committee approved an amended version of proposed budget cuts which included sports.
I recently touched on the topic when the news broke that this was a possibility, but now that it is finally here, and the school committee passed the cuts, it’s impossible for me not to comment once again.
First off, what an atrocity.
Like the last time, I will admit that I am not as knowledgeable as those on the school committee, and I understand that they are making calculated decisions that are not easy, and do carry a purpose behind them.
That said, and I mean no disrespect by this, but all I can say is that it is embarrassing and a shame that it has even come down to this.
The sentiment that the school committee has been expressing over the past few weeks is that it has no choice, and it is doing the best that it can. Ultimately, that may be true at this very moment, but it shows that there was a level of prior incompetence and poor decision making that is forcing it to make such drastic cuts … not even just for sports, but across the board. To say that there was no avoiding this would be a lie, and the school committee and those involved should be ashamed.
Sports are everything for some of these kids, for a lot of these kids in fact. I understand and agree that academics come first … that is why they are called student-athletes. But let’s not ignore the fact that sports are sometimes the only thing that these kids have to look forward to every day, and for others that are less fortunate, can sometimes be the only thing that they have in general.
Sports provide so many opportunities for children and teenagers on so many different levels. It gives them a chance to socialize, learn how to operate as a team, and it also gives them something to put to their college applications. Of course, some athletes get scholarships, and many others go to college just to continue their athletic careers. Athletics also keep kids off the street and out of trouble, as they devote most afternoons during the school year and many hours of their summer preparing to compete.
I won’t keep going down this road as I already have many times before, but just to hammer it home, sports are just so important for kids to have, and they should always be available. As Pilgrim basketball coach Matt Fontaine told me last week in an interview, these kids should be afforded the opportunity to play and compete, and should not have to worry about having it taken away.
I was there at Warwick City Hall last week when roughly 100 students, coaches, parents and administrators made the trip to protest and speak with the mayor. I was encouraged to see the turnout, although I was not at all surprised.
And although Mayor Joseph Solomon, in my opinion, deserves some of this blame … you do have to give him credit for granting the kids their chance to meet face to face and to address the situation. He could have easily kept his door locked and shooed them along, but he did the right thing.
At the conclusion of the meeting between Solomon and three local athletes, the mayor assured them that sports would not be cut, and they would be hitting the field come September.
I do believe the mayor, mostly because of the outrage that this has caused. I know that the committee ranked sports rather low in terms of priority on the list of cuts, but in terms of public interest, it may be No. 1.
At this point though, sports have not been restored, and these Warwick residents must keep their foot on the gas, and not relent until they know for sure that athletics will be back. Pilgrim High has been hosting summer workouts and team practices for the past week, and are maintaining the status quo, which I believe is the perfect play.
At the end of the day, it is up to the citizens to keep the government in check. Although it does not always seem this way, and certainly does not always feel this way, we are the ones in charge, and these representatives work for us. I believe in mutual respect and professionalism … I am certainly not encouraging animosity on either side, but when such drastic and unpopular decisions are made, it sometimes takes a persistent response for justice.
Once again, I do not know the members of the school committee, and I have nothing but respect for them as individuals, as they have a tough job. But I do believe that it is my right to call them out when I disagree or feel that they have come up short … and in this situation, both are the case.
The importance of interscholastic athletics cannot be overstated, and should be available for every kid in the country. The fact that the school committee has failed to recognize and prioritize that is an abomination, and should be changed immediately.
For those in the community reading this, keep doing your thing. Don’t back down, don’t accept it, and keep on fighting until this mortifying decision is reversed. Persistence leads to results, and this is no different.