ESCANABA - The Escanaba Area Public Schools Board of Education voted to allow the district's gymnastics program to become a self-funded sport during Monday's school board meeting.
The action was taken after the board chose to eliminate gymnastics from the district's sports program for the 2013-14 school year due to budget cuts, which had been estimated to save the district $24,833.
Gymnastics now joins hockey, baseball, and bowling as the district's fourth self-funded sport.
The board voted against a recommendation made by Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire to not approve self-funding gymnastics in a 5-2 vote, with only trustees Natalie Clouse and Marilyn Noble voting in support of Lemire's recommendation.
The board then voted 5-2 in support of approving gymnastics as a self-funded sport, with only Clouse and Noble opposed.
According to Lemire, the board's finance committee reviewed and discussed a proposal to self-fund the sport at its previous meeting.
"I have additionally reviewed the potential impact of allowing the self-funding of gymnastics with the committee and in my opinion, I believe the legal and financial liabilities outweigh any potential benefits," she said. "I do not recommend the board approve the self-funding of gymnastics, however, the proposal may be considered if a motion is made."
Lemire noted if the board voted to allow gymnastics as a self-funding sport, it would be overseen and supported by a gymnastics booster club which would need to gain 501C status. Seven potential booster club members have already expressed an interest.
Trustee Will Carne spoke in opposition to Lemire's recommendation.
"I feel that's discrimination,' he said. "We allow three other sports to self-fund."
Trustees Noble and Clouse expressed their concerns in allowing gymnastics to be self-funding. The biggest concern discussed was that gymnastics head coach Theresa Pascoe, who primarily put forth the proposal, owns the business Triple A Gymnastics, which could be viewed as a conflict of interest.
According to Board President Jim Hermans, the self-funded sport would be kept separate from the business and would follow the same rules as the other three self-funded sports.
"I think that we should probably allow this and then evaluate it at the end of the year," he said.
Board Vice President Nicole Dewar-Braun said she believes the superintendent sometimes must recommend the safest option to the board, but then the board should make its own decision by weighing the risks and rewards.
"For me, I feel like the risk is small enough and the reward big enough that I'm willing to take that," she said.
In other business, the board:
- heard an update on the success of Escanaba's partnership with Berrien Springs Public Schools for the Escanaba Virtual Career Center. According to Center Director Danielle Wotchko, the center has 40 students enrolled, 10 of which are shared with Escanaba High School. Twenty-four classes have already been completed by students. The students taking advantage of the Escanaba Virtual Career Center include at-risk students, teen parents, students experiencing anxiety, home-schooled students, gifted students, and students who need credit recovery.
- adopted school board meeting dates for the 2013-14 fiscal year to be on the third Monday of each month, with the exception of the February meeting which has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18 since that Monday falls on President's Day.
- approved Cathleen M. Niles to fill the open crossing guard position at Lemmer Elementary and Escanaba Senior High School.
- approved Jeslyn Erickson to fill the open crossing guard position at Webster Elementary and Escanaba Senior High School.
- approved substitute bus driver Jerry Pineda to fill a bus driver position for the district's new Gladstone route.
- approved a leave of absence request for a member of the Escanaba Education Association for the first semester of the 2013-14 school year.
- certified Gagnier and Dewar-Braun as delegates to the Michigan Association of School Boards and to attend the Delegate Assembly on Oct. 24 in Lansing. MASB members meet to consider, debate and adopt resolutions on issues affecting public education and Michigan's schools.