Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rural school threatened with closure suspends sports so it can focus on academics, improve scores

The Premont Independent School District, in a rural town of 2,700 in South Texas, is among many rural schools struggling with outdated buildings, budget deficits, dwindling student populations and staffing shortages. Now Premont is facing closure by the Texas Education Agency for failing to "meet the state's criteria" and "certain adequate yearly progress requirements since 2007 under the federal No Child Left Behind program," Christopher Sherman of The Associated Press reports. But in an attempt to save the school and the community, Superintendent Ernest Singleton is taking drastic measures by cutting athletics to focus on academics. (Photo by Michael Zamora, Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

All sports at the school have postponed until at least the next basketball season as Singleton shifts the focus to extra tutoring and test preparation. Singleton told Sherman it was a tough decision in a community that values high school sports so much, but "because we're so far behind with student performance I wanted an environment that was academic only."

Singleton estimates the decision to end sports programs will also save the school about $50,000 in the spring and $100,000 in the fall. The money can be used to update facilities, attract qualified teachers and pay off its $400,000 line of credit, Sherman reports.

The community would lose its largest employer, with 90 jobs, if the school is forced to close. Frank Davila, a Jim Wells County constable and school security officer told Sherman, if "the school shuts down in this town, the town dies. This is all we have." The nearest school district is 35 miles away. (Wikipedia map locates Premont)

Not everyone agrees with the decision to stop athletics. Patricia Bunch, 36, mother of three in Premont schools, "disagrees with the decision because sports helps students stay healthy and keep out of trouble," Sherman reports. Premont student Cedric de la Garza, 15, told Sherman, "Staying eligible for sports is what motivates many students to pass their classes." (Read more)

No comments: