The Gillespie CUSD 7 school board heard a proposal regarding the possible establishment of a parent-funded softball program for middle school girls and Superintendent Joe Tieman said the issue of whether or not to implement a middle school girls softball program as a parent-funded sport will be placed on the agenda for the school board’s consideration in December.
About 20 parents supporting the measure attended the meeting as Chris Hostettler and Ronnie Bertolino presented a tentative plan to the board for establishing a softball program for middle school girls.
“A lot of communities already have a program,” Hostettler told the board as he presented packets of information to individual board members. “Our intention is to have a program that will feed into Michelle (Smith’s high school softball) program. I think we really have something special here that we can do to help this community and this school district.”
Bertolino said information in the packets given to board members includes a petition with more than 30 signatures for parent supporters and a breakdown of the program’s tentatively estimated costs. With the cost of uniforms, travel expenses for away games and stipends for officials for local games, Bertolino set the estimated annual total cost at about $6,735.
Staunton, Mount Olive and Southwestern school districts already have middle school girls softball programs, according to Bertolino. Carlinville and Hillsboro reportedly are discussing proposed programs for middle school girls in their districts. Bertolino said the Staunton parents raised $3,500 for the Staunton program with a mouse racing event, and Mount Olive raised nearly $4,000 with a scrimmage tournament.
“With those two things, I think we could cover our costs, but we could also have cook outs, Krispy Kreme sales and other things,” he said.
The packet also included coaching certification documents for Hostettler, but both Hayes and Tieman emphasized that the board would have final authority for hiring a coach if the program is approved.
“Keep in mind that it would be a school-sponsored, parent-funded sport,” Tieman said. “The school would be responsible for hiring and, in some cases firing, coaches. A lot of the time, parents think they will have something to do with interviewing process and they don’t.”
“A parent-funded sport is parent-funded only,” Hayes noted. “You would have no say-so in hiring and firing.”
“A parent-funded sport is parent-funded only,” Hayes noted. “You would have no say-so in hiring and firing. Another issue you have to think about is Title IX.”
Title IX is the federal regulation that requires school districts to provide equal athletic opportunities for males and females.
Smith, who coaches the high school softball program, said she spoke with Staunton school officials about the Title IX issue.
“I’m not sure how they did it, but there is a way to work around it,” she said. “It’s not equal/equal, it has to do with equal opportunity for girls and boys.” She also said there are enough middle school girls softball programs in the area to put together a 12-game schedule with six home games and six away games.
Tieman said he will get a legal opinion on the Title IX issue before the board is asked to consider the issue in December. He warned the board could vote to authorize the program, vote it down or vote to delay action to a later date.
“My recommendation to the board will be based solely on whether or not I think this is a good opportunity for our student athletes and that it doesn’t negatively impact any of our other programs,” Tieman said.