Jun 29, 2023
2 hrs ago
The Cumberland County Board of Education voted 6-3 to add the school districts nine elementary schools to the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association at Wednesdays special-called meeting.
We put this at a special-called to give additional notice to our general public, so that we would meet our due diligence in putting it out there to see if anyone had more to discuss or not, said Teresa Boston, 8th District representative.
Nicholas Davis, 5th District representative, moved to approve adding Cumberland County Schools to TMSAA. Robert Safdie, 2nd District representative, seconded the motion.
Voting against the motion were 4th District representative Anita Hale, 6th District representative Chris King and 7th District representative Rebecca Hamby.
TMSAA is a nonprofit organization that regulates interscholastic sports at the middle-school level. Adding Cumberland Countys elementary schools to TMSAA means every sport for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students would be under the same rules and regulations.
Some of the changes that joining TMSAA would make for middle-school sports include:
Seasons will be created for each sport, meaning a few sports seasons may be changed from spring to fall. This is to prevent scheduling conflicts, allowing for more students to be multi-sport athletes.
Middle school teams can compete against other TMSAA schools, including in state tournaments and playoffs.
The school district will have access to TMSAA-sanctioned referees for games and tournaments.
The school district will be able to add more programs.
All TMSAA athletes would have catastrophic insurance coverage in case of injury.
During discussion, Hale asked, Id just like to know again how its going to affect the younger children and the ones who might not be in this travel ball thing thats going to happen.
Hales question was similar to previous meetings where board members shared concerns about students being cut from school sports, as TMSAA would have two middle school teams for each sportone as a Cumberland County High School feeder team and the other as a Stone Memorial feeder team. Basketball was one of the exceptions to this, as each schools teams are self-sustaining due to an overwhelming number of players.
At these meetings, it was suggested that there be alternative, countywide teams for students who dont make the TMSAA-regulated teams.
Davis responded, I think there was a comment last meeting that allowed us to understand that this was going to be an addition to student athletes that were playing, as opposed to subtraction.
To further solidify that effort and concern, theres been a number of conversations around creating different pathways of combining local-use sports with the schools in a way thats maybe not been done before, he added.
Hale asked if students would have to pay for local-use sports.
Davis said, Currently, most local-use sports are significantly less in financial obligation than school sports. On average, I think its $50 or less, typically. Theres ways to fund that, and/or subsidize that via grants.
That is a very useful way for us to help offset some of those costs for some of the kids who may not be able to, he said.
Sheri Nichols, 3rd District representative, said that she initially had concerns about how students from lower-income families would be able to participate in sports, as it is currently parents responsibility to get their children to practices, games and tournaments.
That was really main thing that I think that I got, was that poorer kids would be left out, and every one of the coaches that I listened to that night when we were here, Id never heard that.
And I called some of them to ask them, What about the less fortunate children in your school that cannot afford to join sports? Nichols said.
They said, If they are dedicated and they make the team, we find a way to make it work. We are not going to leave kids behind. We are in it to coach the kids; Its not about us, its about them, she continued.
Some of the coaches I talked to are doing other schools free, I mean, they dont even get paid for doing some of the stuff that they do, they just do it because theyre coaching and they want kids to go from elementary to middle to high school. And then high school to college someday, and maybe to pro ball, Nichols said.
Nichols also said she liked that TMSAA would create more freedom for students to play more than one sport.
I got my questions answered, and I asked a lot, Nichols concluded.
Hale asked for clarification from Davis, saying, Were voting to join this association for the rules of the game?
Davis explained that TMSAAs governance is essentially the same as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association governing high school sports, just at the middle-school level.
Within that, I guess within our vote, obviously, we have to support the additional needs of the coaches and the support staff that are going to be responsible for making sure that it takes place the way that it needs to, Davis said. So, we would be adding positions. Thats where that financial burden comes into play.
King said he does not believe joining TMSAA would be overall helpful to students.
For over a year, Ive listened to parents, students, coaches, principals, teachers, supervisors and other board members, King said.
There are many reasons I have heard that have been listed for us to join TMSAA. The insurance, officials, state playoffs, King continued. Joining TMSAA would cost us $17,700 a year, every year, its a recurring expense. Does the membership not limit our players in participation? Wed be going down from maybe 100 players to 40 or 60. How is that helping students?
Students have told me that theyre choosing not to play in some cases, rather than be blended with another school. Why would we put them in that position? King asked. Should we not vote for whats the right thing totally?
The motion to join TMSAA passed 6-3, with Davis, Safdie, Boston, Nichols, 1st District representative Elizabeth Stull and 9th District representative Shannon Stout in support of the motion.
After approving the motion, Boston moved to allocate $17,700 into the 2023-24 budget to pay for all TMSAA-related expenses.
Hamby asked if the $17,700 would cover all costs needed, as TMSAA has all non-faculty coaches pay a $25 fee to coach TMSAA-regulated teams. Dean Patton, the schools athletic director, clarified that this is normally paid for out of the teams or the coaches budgets, rather than the school districts funds.
The board also approved Bostons motion 7-2. King and Hale were the only dissenting votes.
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