Hard­ing gets money for fresh­man foot­ball

Connecticut Post - - NEWS - By Linda Con­ner Lam­beck

The plan, ap­proved by a 6-3 vote, does not in­clude Bas­sick or Cen­tral high schools, nor any of the other sports cut from the cash-starved district over the past sev­eral years — just Hard­ing foot­ball.

BRIDGE­PORT — A city school board still try­ing to find mil­lions in cuts to bal­ance next year’s bud­get has added $3,500 to the bot­tom line to fund fresh­man foot­ball at Hard­ing High School.

The plan, ap­proved by a 6-3 vote, does not in­clude Bas­sick or Cen­tral high schools, nor any of the other sports cut from the cash-starved district over the past sev­eral years — just Hard­ing foot­ball.

“No one else asked me,” said Chris Tay­lor, the board mem­ber who brought the pro­posal to the full panel on Mon­day. Tay­lor said he was ap­proached and con­vinced by Hard­ing foot­ball coaches that fund­ing a fresh­man squad would be a good in­vest­ment.

Tay­lor said he was told 99 per­cent of fresh­men who sign up for foot­ball tend to be more pro­duc­tive in the class­room, are more likely to grad­u­ate and be­come pro­duc­tive mem­bers of so­ci­ety.

Other board mem­bers won­dered about other schools and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“What about arts?” asked Ben Walker, a board mem­ber who also teaches mu­sic in Green­wich.

Board Vice Chair­man Her­nan Illing­worth said he agreed there should be more arts, but said if the panel would just buckle down and make tough cuts to cen­tral of­fice staff, there would be enough to pro­vide more ac­tiv­i­ties for stu­dents.

“We still have to cut $2 mil­lion,” board mem­ber Maria Pereira said of the idea of adding foot­ball. Pre­vi­ously she has sug­gested turn­ing all district ath­let­ics into a pay-to-play op­er­a­tion.

“In May and June we don’t have (sub­sti­tute teach­ers),” Pereira said. “We are headed in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

Board mem­ber Den­nis Bradley said Hard­ing is known for its foot­ball.

“We should in­vest in what made Hard­ing great,” he said.

Ath­letic Direc­tor Chris Johnson agreed foot­ball gives stu­dents a pos­i­tive out­let. But he ques­tioned if $3,500 would be enough to fund the team when travel, se­cu­rity and uni­forms are fac­tored in. One new hel­met costs $200.

Johnson said he also said he wor­ried about eq­uity.

Cen­tral, Johnson said, has 45 to 50 fresh­men who reg­u­larly come out for foot- ball al­though there is no fresh­man squad.

“Ev­ery­body has an excuse not to do some­thing,” Tay­lor said, ad­dress­ing Johnson. “All I hear in Bridge­port are rea­sons why we can’t do things. Never do I hear some­one say, ‘Board Mem­ber Tay­lor, I will make it work be­cause I am ded­i­cated.’ I hope your name is not on our bud­get list. That is all I have to say to you.”

Other board mem­bers called Tay­lor’s com­ments out­ra­geous.

Johnson’s po­si­tion is al­ready one of the many po­si­tions slated to be cut next year, a de­ci­sion made more than a month ago.

An at­tempt to ta­ble the pro­posal un­til the board set­tles on a 2017-18 bud­get failed on a 6-3 vote. Pereira, Walker and Joe Sokolovic were on the los­ing side of the vote.

By the same 6-3 tally the board voted in fa­vor of Tay­lor’s pro­posal. Sid­ing with Tay­lor were Chair­man John Wel­don, Illing­worth, Sec­re­tary Jes­sica Martinez, Bradley and Sy­bil Allen.

Tay­lor

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