Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parent Editorial: Sports and the Parcel Tax - "...no plan, no guarantees and if the Parcel Tax does or doesn’t pass, we may not get sports back"

Below is a parent letter, an open letter to the board and to our community. If you have something you'd like to share, please feel free to comment, or email mdusdparents@gmail.com to get your letter posted here.

Update 6pm, the Contra Costa Times just posted the following article: Mt. Diablo School District Parents confused about the future of sports . Check it out. There is also an email circulating today to urge sports families to attend the board meeting tonight. Sports for next year is already cut. Sports are not on the agenda tonight. I hope they remain organized and use this energy toward the passage of Measure D and the prioritization of what programs to restore when it passes. Behind the scenes, district personnel are working to determine the "pay to play" and parent funded athletic options. We should hear more soon.


Dear Mt. Diablo School District Board,

I have 3 students in the Mt. Diablo School District, I have been very supportive of our schools and have contributed significantly as PTA President, and auditor for several years, as well as doing the yearbook, helping in classrooms, with graduations, etc. I stay well informed and keep in close touch with many of our teachers. That being said, I was quite surprised when last Tuesday I heard of the boards decision to cut all Athletics from our high schools. I learned of this from my son who was told by a friend on his Concord High Football team. Once I began to research I found that there were very few people aware that this cut was scheduled to be done at the March 3 board meeting, as I realize the sports program has been on the cuts list since November, I was not under the impression that it had come to that point yet. No one I spoke to had any idea this cut had occurred, one day after the board meeting.

Since the day I found out about the cut I have been relentlessly trying to figure out what was going on and figure out why no one was talking about this, why did no one know about it? I Sent emails, talked to people, the only information I could get was... we have to pass the parcel tax. Great, I signed up to support that, without hesitation. But then with further research I realized, that the Parcel Tax does not speak to sports anywhere in the verbiage, but it does speak to art and music. So tonight still trying to piece all the facts together, I attended the Concord High Boosters meeting to hear what Sherry Whitmarsh could tell us, (thank you for coming Sherry), what I took away from that meeting is, there really is no plan, no guarantees and if the Parcel Tax does or doesn’t pass, we may not get sports back. So what are our options, we ask? Well, there is no option for pay to play and there doesn’t seem to be any real handle on whether or not the Boosters could fund the sports programs, there may be legal issues involved. Which brings to question, why if Water Polo is a self funded sport and can continue, why couldn’t football be a self funded sport and continue? And how much money is really needed to continue the sports programs, the $721,400, seems to be somewhat of a questionable amount, does it include the money raised by sports such as football gate fees and transportation? In order for the parents and Booster Clubs to know what we are up against if the Parcel Tax doesn’t pass (or even if it does), we need to know what our options are.

I think this was the first time that the people in the Boosters and parents in general really understood that you are taking sports, I think everyone thought we could raise money or do pay to play, it even said that in the Contra Costa Times, but as I understand it from Sherry tonight, we are not eligible for pay to play because of some of the schools below poverty levels. This is absolutely devastating. And if the Parcel Tax doesn’t pass things are even more dire. My feeling is that with 1/3 of high school students in the Mt. Diablo School District participating in sports, that is a good support base for passing the Parcel Tax. I know for a fact that if it meant keeping High School Athletics, you would have hundreds of people willing to go door to door to get the support for this Parcel Tax, without having it specifically written into the Parcel Tax, you have tied all the Athletics Boosters and Parents hands, we can not go out and rally for this Parcel Tax to save Sports because you won’t commit to that.

This cut of all high school athletics will have astronomical consequences to our students, those that have dreams of college scholarships, those that have questionable family lives, sports are the best intervention program we have. Without sports those kids will be wondering around our neighborhoods getting into trouble, gang issues will rise, and high school truancy and drop out rates will increase. Beyond the affects this will have on our children, this move will lower our property values even more, with people leaving the area to go to districts with sports programs, and people not wanting to move into our district without a sports program, our school scores will drop, with the students having no accountability, the grades and test scores will plummet.

All this being said, I am not blaming the board for the cut, I understand why it was made and that it was a difficult decision, however, what I am saying and asking for, is for some accountability. What can we do to keep the sports programs, realistically, we need a plan, we can make it work if there is only a plan of action. Can we add sports to the Parcel Tax verbiage, then we can get every parent of a high school student in sports to go out and rally behind Measure D? And if the Parcel tax doesn’t pass, how much money needs to be raised? Can the schools keep the gate fees and transportation fees toward the funds for sports? Is there any way to do pay to play? Can each sport fund itself like Water Polo at Concord High? We need answers and we need answers now so that we can get something in place to have sports programs still in our schools in August when our students return from summer break.

As I said before, this cut will cause far reaching devastation, it will affect far more students, directly and indirectly than any other cut. Please consider this carefully and help us to keep our sports programs.
Sherry Whitmarsh mentioned tonight, she has not seen any support for sports at the board meetings, except a few people from College Park. Well, I can guarantee you, that will be changing, the biggest reason that no one has shouted out about this cut yet, is because no one really knew it had happened and what it really meant. We all assumed it would just turn into a pay to play situation, at worst, now we know that is not the worst. The worst, absolutely, is no sports programs, which are vital to our children’s education and chances at getting into college, being successful and for our community to continue to thrive with decent schools and programs.
Thank you for your time and consideration, and we will be seeing you at the board meetings.

Meghan Mahler

(students at Concord High and El Dorado Middle)



  1. I just want to make a correction to what is printed. MDUSD has to look investigate pay to play or as it called self funded sports for all of our sports. We have to see if there are any legalities about Title IX (boys and girls have equal access to athletics) and if there are any equity issues. The district is looking at this to see what can be done, but it doesn't appear to be a simple answer.


  2. "Since the day I found out about the cut I have been relentlessly trying to figure out what was going on and figure out why no one was talking about this, why did no one know about it?"

    What? Where have you been for the past few years while MILLIONS have been cut from MDUSD. Maybe athletics have been a distraction. I guess it is never to late to get informed.

  3. I, for one am a new mother. My daughter will not enter kindergarten for a few more years. I have been learning so much from these blogs. I appreciate all who comment - positive and negative.

    Can't help but feel so sad about this entire situation. I believe in ALL our children, not only my own. I don't envy the job of our School Board representatives. There are so many valuable programs, and so little money. The obvious. I wish you all great strength and thought in your decisions.

  4. I hope that all of the coaches, administrators, and parents who are putting so much time into forming a committee to fund sports will come out and support the front lines of the parcel tax campaign instead. We have 45 days left and cannot afford distractions at this junction.
    If you want an absolute answer I will give you this one. THERE WILL BE NO SPORTS NEXT YEAR WITHOUT MEASURE D. That should be enough to motivate every high school parent to get out there and walk precincts and phone bank.
    I don't care how organized a sports committee may be, they will not raise $721,000 by August, September, 2010, or 2011. Look at Northgate Pride, this is an amazing group that has had a structure in place for 10 years. They have helped to fund many great projects at Northgate. According to their website, in 10 years they have raised approx $2.5 million. $1 million of that has come from foundations that typically prefer capital improvement projects. That leaves $1.5 mil raised by community members and businesses. The newly formed sports committee would need to raise almost $1 mil every year (you must include sport's booster's annual contributions along with the $721,000 because you will be tapping the same pool of parents.)
    Please for the next 45 days put away the "Sports Committee" and really volunteer to get Measure D passed. We must unite not just in supporting the measure but in keeping our focus on the only real hope we have for sports next year.
    Bonus: With the parcel tax we also stand to get 4th grade music, librarians, etc...