Auburn schools to allow students to play 2 sports

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AUBURN — After hearing an Edward Little parent dispute what he was told by high school officials — that his daughter could not play two sports in one season — the Auburn School Committee directed administrators to let parents and students make that decision.

Mike Lally told committee members Wednesday night his daughter, Frankie, wanted to take part in both track and tennis this year, but was told there was a rule against students playing two sports in one season.

Lally looked up handbooks and documents trying to find that rule, but could not. That’s because “this policy doesn’t exist,” he said.

His daughter this year played tennis and wanted to participate in track. Playing both sports made sense, Lally said, since the track schedule was light and both coaches were in agreement.

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But he was told first by Athletic Director Dan Deshaies, then by Principal Jim Miller, that rules don’t allow students to play two sports. Lally said he understands it’s hard for one administrator to overrule another. “Everybody supports the next layer down. So I’m appealing to you folks who are elected officials … who don’t have to worry about stepping on anybody’s toes.”

Arguing for only one sport per season, Deshaies said if athletes were to play more than one, there would be too many conflicts, and it could be too hard on that student.

Edward Little offers a lot of sports. “There’s enough to go around,” he said. Different sports require the use of different muscles and conditioning, which could leave a student prone to injury. “I truly believe it’s not healthy for the kids to play two sports.”

Students sometimes think they can do everything, he said. “Sometimes we have to make those decisions for them for the best of their health.”

Miller agreed, saying some coaches can be aggressive and students need to be protected.

Committee members did not agree.

“That’s why these kids have parents,” said Lane Feldman. “If my child wants to play two different sports, that’s a decision I make with my wife and my child. You can’t always make that decision for them.”

Susan Gaylord called Deshaies arguments “weak.” Thomas Kendall said if a student excels at two sports and the school only allows participating in one, the school could be “artificially limiting their ability to express their talents” to a college considering recruiting them.

After considerable debate, Assistant Superintendent Katy Grondin said she will meet with Miller and Deshaies and draw up guidelines for next year allowing students to play more than one sport.

In other business, Kendall announced that the administrators’ union, which represents principals, assistant principals, athletic directors and middle school deans, has agreed to a three-year labor contract.

The contract is “revenue neutral,” Kendall said. Administrators will receive some step raises but will pay more for health care, just as teachers will beginning July 1.

Overall the cost of administrator salaries will go down by $48,000, said Superintendent Tom Morrill, in part, due to budget cuts. The Auburn Middle School principal is retiring and will be replaced by one of the school’s two deans. That means the middle school will have two administrators instead of three.

The savings to taxpayers is needed, Kendall said. “We are in difficult times.”

Committee members voted to eliminate five special ed tech positions and three teachers at the high school, and create four teaching positions at Fairview, Sherwood Heights and Washburn, all as outlined in the budget approved by taxpayers on May 11. The new positions will be paid for by federal stimulus money, due to expire next year. Morrill said he needs that time to find money in the budget to pay for those positions next year.

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