Harrisburg schools cutting sports and jobs

Harrisburg schools cutting sports and jobs
By: Arnold Wyrick

HARRISBURG, Il. --The dreaded news has been a long time coming for students, and staff at Harrisburg schools.  But the axe is about to fall to the tune of $425,000 in cutbacks.  It's not a decision Superintendent Dennis Smith is taking lightly.
"We're $1.8-million in the red.  And we're paying the equivalent of two teachers salaries in interest on the debt.  We've been pushing this back, and pushing it back.  Now it's time to face the problem," Smith said.
So in light of the school boards recommendations for more cuts in sports and fine arts,  Superintendent Smith is proposing cutting all sporting activities in the Harrisburg Middle School.  Along with the Harrisburg High School golf team and cross country team.
News isn't sitting well with some parents.
"I think if kids are involved in sports and things like that, they don't have time to get involved in drugs and other troubles," says Jesse Gibbs of Harrisburg.
"I have a teenage daughter myself.  And from them not having anything to do, it's going to keep them in trouble," says Sherry Owen of Harrisburg.
School leaders are fully aware that cutting all sporting activities could cause a backlash among students.
"We too are concerned about what are these kids going to do if they don't have these activities at the middle school level.  But remember when the State Board of Education comes in and evaluates Harrisburg's schools performance, it's based on test scores.  Not on game scores," Superintendent Smith said.
The cutbacks being proposed would also eliminate all assistant coaching positions, except for the high school football team.  And several teachers aides, and custodial positions could also be erased.
"I am only given the task to make recommendations to the school board.  They can really come in and cherry pick these proposals, or vote to accept all of them.  It's really up to them," Smith said.
And the Harrisburg School Board will get a chance to decide on the cutbacks Monday evening, at a special school board meeting.  That meeting is open to the public.  And it is scheduled to begin at 6 pm, in the Harrisburg Middle School auditorium.