School Superintendent clarifies vision statement

School Superintendent clarifies vision statement

At a public hearing last month, William Monroe Head Coach Mark Sanford told county supervisors that Greene County School Superintendent David Jeck had shared a vision with him three years before.

“I took a nickel tour with Dr. Jeck and was less than impressed,” Sanford, who had been head coach at Covenant School for seven seasons, told supervisors at the May 8 public hearing regarding the county’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

“I told him the place was a dump,” Sanford said May 8, referring to the state of the school district’s athletic facilities prior to recently completed renovations. “(Dr. Jeck) started to smile and told me what his plan was. He proceeded to describe a vision he had for the football program, the athletic program and more importantly the school system. It was a vision that nearly changed my perception overnight. Obviously, I decided to buy into that vision.”

As Sanford’s comments were made less than two years after the school district appeared before the county’s Board of Supervisors to request permission to apply for what would be a $5.3 million loan to renovate athletic and performing arts facilities, some eyebrows were raised.

Jeck has explained.

“Shortly before I first met with Coach Sanford the Greene County Athletic Foundation had kicked off a multi-million dollar fund raising effort to renovate the facilities,” Jeck has told Eye on Greene.

The Foundation was established around 2005, with Greene County resident Rodney Kibler at its head. Records indicate that the multi-million dollar fundraising effort had the backing of both former State Senators Russ Potts and Ed Robb, who were listed as co-directors of the Greene County Athletic Foundation Revitalization Fund Raising Campaign. And, former University of Virginia Coach George Welsh offered public encouragement for the effort.

When the recession struck, the fund-raising campaign went nowhere.

“Nobody raised a dime,” Jeck says.

Indeed.

Internal Revenue Service filings for the Foundation, available for viewing at the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistic’s Web site at http://nccs.urban.org, show that the Foundation had $6,223 in total assets at the end of 2010.

Those records further show that gifts, grants and contributions received totaled: $11,833 in 2006; $164,481 in 2007; $35,450 in 2008; and none in either 2009 or 2010.

Grassroots fund raising efforts actually began about 2004, when a group of county residents decided to build a field house behind William Monroe High School.

They came up with about $230,000 to get the ball rolling. Five thousand dollars of that was spent drawing plans that would reportedly have cost $60,000 had the plans been drawn by an architectural firm. A Greene County building contractor worked with that plan at no cost. When the seed money was spent, the William Monroe High School Community Service Club took it upon itself to raise the remaining $80,000 needed for the project.

The field house effort led to the greater vision to revitalize all facilities.

When the multi-million fund raising effort was kicked off in early 2009, the goal, in addition to completing the field house, was to raise $2.3 million to reconfigure the softball and baseball facilities, to construct a press box, new dugouts, and restrooms, and to provide lighting for those fields.

In addition, it was the stated objective of the Foundation to resurface the high school track, renovate bleachers construct tennis courts and make improvements to the performing arts center.

In late 2009, after fund raising efforts failed, school officials said the unlighted softball and baseball fields were preventing night games. The bleachers were old, made of concrete, and the track was filled with cracks and considered dangerous.

The Greene County Tourism Council pushed for improvements, stating that the ability to host playoff games would be a draw, and in 2010 school district officials made several appearances before supervisors to request $5 million for a more thorough overhaul.

Jim Frydl, supervisors’ liaison to the project steering committee, and the current liaison to the school board, explained that the project had grown because, due in part to legal requirements and geographic conditions, one repair had led to another.

School district officials justified the cost of the project by stating that the district would be making its final payments on two separate loans – one for the construction of the Nathanael Greene Elementary School and one for a 1991 project at William Monroe Middle School. The payments on the athletic and performing arts facilities, they said, would be less than the payments for the two maturing loans.

Steve Catalano, who was chairman of the board of supervisors at the time, said he feared that in the near future the amount required to make the facilities improvement loan budget-neutral would have to be used to offset operational costs. He noted that retired debt service in the school district budget would be a significant hedge in promoting stability if state cuts to both the county and the school continued.

School district officials assured supervisors that the loan payments would not require an increase to the school district’s future budget.

In the end, in early 2011, county supervisors gave the school district the go-ahead to apply for a $5.3 million loan.

But on August 11, 2011 in a memorandum to county officials concerning growth in student numbers, the school board and school officials noted a “demand for physical education space and additional athletic programs that are common for schools our size, such as lacrosse, field hockey and tennis.

“Unfortunately, even with recent athletic facility upgrades and expansion, we are just able to meet demands of current programs and do not have space to add fields, which would be necessary to support these other programs” they stated in the memo.  “As our student population grows, we are concerned about being able to offer enough programs to give more students opportunities to be part of sports teams. We believe offering sufficient athletic programs (is) critical to help students to adopt healthy lifestyles and develop as people and citizens … current field space is not sufficient to meet current demands for recreational sports teams in our community.”

On May 8, in response to a demonstration on the part of school district supporters, county supervisors agreed to fully fund the school district’s request for an additional $2.3 million in local funds with a one-time infusion from the county’s reserve fund.

At the time, school officials said they needed the infusion to fund a “bare bones” budget.

Now, “There are no plans at this time to add any additional athletic or fine arts facilities, or to invest in any additional renovations or improvements to existing facilities,” says Jeck. “I cannot speak for the athletic foundation, but I am not aware of any current or future plans that the foundation might have.”

Kibler, who is now a member of the Greene County School Board, has not responded to a request for comment

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