By Timothy Cox
Coldwater High School's gymnastics program will survive at least another year following school district officials' decision late last week to delay a plan to drop the varsity sport.
The sport still likely would be dropped for the 2005-2006 school year if the scheduling and transportation issues facing the program remain as issues, Superintendent Rich Seas said this morning.
It has been a tumultuous month for the program that began when district officials revealed they were conducting a review of the program to see if it is viable. Scheduling and transportation issues were cited as the reasons for cutting the program, sparking an outcry from parents and gymnasts. Board of education members appeared to back away from concerns at the May 11 meeting. However, last week, high school Principal Steve Keller issued a directive to drop gymnastics as a varsity sport and ordered athletic director Eric Goodwin to stop scheduling matches.
But then late last week, district officials decided to grant the program a one-year reprieve.
Seas said he agrees with Keller's decision on the fate of gymnastics and the reasoning behind it. To be fair to all, though, Seas said letting the team compete for another year is the right thing to do. In a letter sent to parents Friday, Seas said the additional year is the courteous thing to do for gymnastics coach Jane Diller and the gymnasts, especially those who will be seniors next season. The extra year also would give Goodwin more time to conduct a thorough review of all athletic programs and give district officials the chance to review policies and procedures for eliminating a program.
Seas said he would recommend at Tuesday's school board meeting that the program continue this winter. But if the same issues still persist a year from now, "I will recommend to the board of education that the program be eliminated for the 2005-2006 season."
"All things considered, I feel as if this is the fair and responsible thing to do," Seas said in the letter.
Seas lamented in the letter that he was "judged in the community arena" on the decision before it was brought to Tuesday's board meeting.
"I won't make any apologies because I did and continue to do what I think is right for this school district," Seas said in the letter. "I realize that I have my critics and given my position as superintendent, that part of the job will never change."
The review of the Coldwater gymnastics program began when Delphos St. John's and Columbus Grove high schools dropped their gymnastics programs. Those schools were Coldwater's nearest opponents and left some holes in the schedule that district officials had been struggling to fill. Also, St. John's was the last Midwest Athletic Conference school except Coldwater to have a gymnastics program.
Keller had reasoned in a memorandum to Goodwin that travel was the critical issue for dropping the program. The gymnastics team's scheduled trips range between 67 miles and 126 miles one way, in excess of district policies on extra-curricular travel.
Keller praised the program in the two-paragraph memo before revealing in the final line he decision to scrap the program.
"Gymnastics has provided the girls in our school an avenue of self-improvement, competition, strong coaching and positive experiences that have helped them to mature," Keller wrote, before suggesting the program continue as a privately maintained club sport. "I do not feel we can continue our program as a varsity sport."