ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW
30 percent rule discourages school pride
By Wayne Robbins
Excellent article highlighting the problems with such a rule. Here’s a question: how does such a rule affect teams with individual performers? Would wrestlers, track participants, or swimmers be prevented from participation if their teams failed to win 30 percent of their meets? On the other hand, should individuals who don’t win 30 percent of their matches (or place in the top three 30 percent of the time) be allowed to participate in sectional meets?
It would be a safe bet that these questions were never raised by a board member and I am not surprised. I left the employ of the district several years ago after a career of teaching and coaching, but the seeds of this decision were planted back then. The superintendent’s power has grown over time and dissent is not acceptable. The school officials (Board of Education) who basically rubber stamp anything the current superintendent puts before them. He has groomed a core of five members who prove to be a loyal majority. He carefully avoids public comments and things are kept tightly “in-house” to avoid public scrutiny. This is nothing new and not restricted to this district. It happens in schools districts everywhere, now and then, where decisions are made and no questions are asked until it is too late to do anything.
There is a booster club that raises money for sports in general. People I know quit the booster club over the years because their voices and opinions are ignored (not being present at the meetings, I cannot personally verify that particular view). Money that might have gone for something these community participants saw as a need was vetoed for what the superintendent wanted.
Getting together with other coaches and/or A.D.s over the years, I often was asked to the effect, “What’s up with your superintendent? He votes no on everything at our meetings.” No doubt it was an exaggeration, but that was the perception.
Sadly, despite the success of many sports over the years, this superintendent has discouraged or downright blocked any attempt to develop a culture of pride in Letchworth’s athletic accomplishments. You might note that many schools have “Halls of Fame.” Not LCS. Some schools (most recently, Perry) find a way to name a room or field after someone who made a major contribution to their athletic (or academic) program over the years. Not LCS.
Ron Smith was the A.D. and successful football and baseball coach for many years. His family and community members pushed to have the football field named in his honor. Vetoed. Phil O’Brien was a pitcher drafted in the early ’60s by the Detroit Tigers and worked in the minors until his arm blew out. Nothing. Dick Vincent won an NCAA wrestling title — at least the current coaches named a tournament in his honor.
Worst of all, though, was the disgraceful treatment of Doug Miller’s memory because he dared to butt heads with the superintendent. Doug — along with Stix — revived the football program and, as you well know, their efforts culminated in a state championship. That was not the only contribution. He coached track and helped out in any other sport he could and if he wasn’t coaching, he was a constant spectator at athletic events, observing and encouraging athletes or sharing what he saw with the coaches. It was Miller who raised the money and installed “Record Boards” for the track team so that individual efforts in events could be recognized. It was Miller who pushed for the modernized weight room and along with Stix designed the room and tested the equipment — not to mention volunteered his time to supervise workouts. It was Miller who personally oversaw the redesign of the awards cabinets in the lobby and supplementing the trophies and plaques of past years with more contemporary ones. In other words, that man had a presence in that school.
A few weeks after his memorial service, board member Lance Bannister made a motion to discuss naming the weight room in Doug’s honor. He could not get anyone to second his motion. Eight other members of the Board of Education. Not a second. The decision had already been made to make sure it never happened.
To be fair, early on in his tenure in the late ’90s, this superintendent did jump on the state offer to provide 85 percent funding of new buildings and athletic fields and Letchworth was able to get a state-of-the art facility before the offer expired. It was a great bargain for a rural school and its taxpayers. However, it came with a hidden price, one to be paid with power and self-righteous authority.
Wayne Robbins is a former wrestling coach and teacher at Letchworth Central School.