Last month I contributed an article exploring the tax payer cost and maybe future consideration of privatizing, or pay-for-play athletics for high school sports including Del Rio. In 2012, one Texas high school had no choice but to suspend athletics. Premont ISD, in Jim Wells County had suffered insurmountable loss in population and in economic development a decade prior. Enrollment fell. Attendance did not meet state requirements as well as financial accountability. As sourced by several news agencies at the time, the district was weeks away from closure. Before the start of the school year, then recently hired superintendent Ernest Singleton made a choice that gave a reprieve for the existence of Premont. All sports were eliminated. By the savings, more teachers were hired and two science labs were built. Premont managed to recover and today, by information provided through its web site, stability has been achieved and yes, athletics has made it back to the district.
I found another Premont report in a October 2013 issue in the Atlantic written by Amanda Ripley. In her story and what garnered my attention is that outcome of the decision appeared to win over the skeptics. Overall attendance improved. Eighty percent of the students passed classes, verses only half the student population when a sport was in place. In Ripley’s report, administrators and teachers saw more students involved in academics, with better attitudes, motivation and even pep rallies on Fridays. It was reported that about a dozen students enrolled at other districts and two coaches left.
A lot of you might wonder why I bring up the story of Premont ISD. Well, when a district is on the ropes, certain cuts must be made. Our schools are no where near the accreditation/financial crisis that Premont faced in 2012; however the board did have to come to the Del Rio voters in 2018 for approval of a TRE. Some of that money was for the restructure of building improvements and security. Most of it was for school district employee health benefits. In other words, taking sports out of the high school can be done with a great benefit towards education and reducing financial burden.
We as tax payers must communicate with our elected board leaders what is important for the future of our schools. If you want to hire qualified educators, you will need a good benefit package. If bonds cannot be passed due to the voters feeling that they are not fully explained or appear excessive, the funding must come from somewhere. If students show more interest in career training curriculum, but can’t make the class because they’re travelling six to 20 times per semester due to sports scheduling; administrators must look at the numbers: what is the overall investments to the student within a lifetime?
Only three students in the past decade have made it to the professional ranks as an athlete from Del Rio High School. That’s three in five thousand graduates.
It’s time for parents to pay for their child to participate in sports and take the burden away from the school and taxpayer. Blow the whistle. Enough is enough.