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County school board OKs consolidation of football programs

County school board OKs consolidation of football programs
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
The third time was the charm for countywide middle school football consolidation.
A proposed action plan for a consolidated junior high football program was approved 5-2 by the Obion County School Board at its session Monday night.
The approval came after Black Oak teacher and coach Brian Moffitt presented board members with a detailed proposed action plan he had compiled with Obion County Central High School athletic director Craig Rogers, who would serve as middle school coordinator under the plan.
Presentation of the plan Monday night marked the third consecutive school board meeting where countywide combined junior high football was discussed. It failed to gain approval when first presented at a called meeting Dec. 17 and again when revisited at the Jan. 14 board meeting.
The issue was first brought to the board’s attention last year when participation numbers were declining and it became apparent the board needed either to pair Black Oak with another school or make some other decision regarding combining junior high football teams. After much discussion and parent meetings at individual schools, the Athletic Advisory Committee recommended a combined format.
The consolidation into countywide grade-level teams would affect the middle school football programs from OCCHS’ four feeder schools — Black Oak, Hillcrest, Lake Road and Ridgemont.
Last month, the board voted unanimously not to allow sixth-graders to participate in the junior high football program amid concerns with age and maturity levels in putting younger players with older players.
But no decision could be reached regarding consolidation for the seventh- and eighth-grade teams and the board decided to place the item back on the agenda for its February meeting, held Monday night at Hillcrest Elementary in Troy.
Since questions lingered for some board members, Obion County School Board chairman Brian Rainey had asked for a more detailed plan to be presented to the board for consideration.
Game plan
The detailed plan came in the form of a presentation where Moffitt emphasized “a new tradition” with junior high football consolidation and answered questions about coaching responsibilities, scheduling, start-up costs and self-sufficiency, practices and cheerleading.
He thoroughly outlined how all-county consolidation would create success for student-athletes and create one unified team.
Projections from the plan showed county football numbers estimated at 33 eighth-graders and 40 seventh-graders next season, and Moffitt opened by sharing testimonies from two Black Oak students who spoke positively about their experiences with their school having combined to play with Ridgemont last season.
The plan offered tentative schedules for a combined seventh-grade team and a combined eighth-grade team, with each having a full schedule of seven games against area teams between Aug. 15 and Oct. 1. Since sixth-graders were removed from junior high play, a proposed sixth-grade schedule showed participation in the Northwest Tennessee MUD League, but Moffitt said additional games could be scheduled with other teams in the area if necessary.
Coaches were asked about preference of assignment and were in unanimous agreement, according to Moffitt, who said there was also a desire to keep sixth grade as an extension of junior high in order to build up the program.
The proposal outlined coaching responsibilities and suggested the pairing of Ridgemont’s Lance Gray and Hillcrest’s Mason Storey for the eighth-grade team and the pairing of Moffitt from Black Oak and Lake Road’s Shawn Johnson for the seventh-grade team, as well as the use of Lake Road’s Russ Brown for a sixth-grade squad.
Moffitt expressed a desire for unified leadership, with Rogers serving as middle school coordinator and OCCHS head football coach Kevin Goltra and an “OCCHS philosophy” to be utilized.
The plan addressed concerns about start-up costs by explaining there are designated monies from the school board to address facility and equipment needs, as well as earmarked monies in school athletic accounts. Moffitt said those involved would also use as much equipment from each school as possible.
The program would continue with gate monies from the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade games going into a single football account, according to Moffitt, who said the programs are self-sufficient now and would operate in the same fashion.
The plan also suggested the possible formation of a Junior Rebel Quarterback Club which could address added expenses outside the normal operation budget.
Regarding questions about practice, student-athletes would be driven to a centrally-located facility — such as OCCHS or Hillcrest — and returned to their home school afterward. One coach from each school would also receive their CDL endorsement to help meet transportation needs.
The plan offered possible scenarios for cheerleader consolidation, including an option where a cheer coach from each school would select three girls from each grade to combine and form a football cheer squad. The possibility of a countywide competition cheer squad would be addressed further by the Athletic Advisory Committee.
Moffitt said those who devised the plan hope to start a new tradition at OCCHS — “one Obion County program.” He said they feel this is the best way to be successful at the next level and the proposal would be a springboard.
“As coaches, we’re excited and see it as a new challenge and a new opportunity,” he said.
Moffitt said he feels deeply about Obion County athletics and supports the plan “with all my heart” after giving it careful consideration.
“I love Obion County athletics and I want us to be Obion County,” he said.
Board members had only a few questions and comments after hearing the plan. Fritz Fussell, the board’s representative on the Athletic Advisory Committee, said Moffitt did a good job with the presentation but he wishes it had been outlined two or three months ago in order to give parents adequate information to offer feedback. Rogers said he wishes there had been better turnout at the parent meetings, but he said those involved answered all their questions at the time.
In the end, board member Tim Partin made the motion to consolidate the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teams as presented, including separate seventh-grade and eighth-grade teams for junior high play and county MUD league action for a sixth-grade team. It was seconded by vice chairman Diane Sanderson.
It was approved by a vote of 5-2. Rainey, Ms. Sanderson, Partin and board members Scott Northam and Willis Easley voted in favor of the motion, while Fussell and board member David Lamb voted against it.
Other action
In other action during Monday night’s hour-long meeting, opened with prayer led by Ms. Sanderson, the school board:
• Approved the calendar for the 2013-14 school year.
The calendar committee, comprised of representatives from each school, voted unanimously to recommend the school calendar for board approval. Every school administrator and teacher had an opportunity to vote on the proposed calendar and Obion County Director of Schools Huss said they “overwhelmingly” approved it on the first vote with 243 out of a possible 280 votes, or 86.8 percent.
Student registration for the 2013-14 school year will be Aug. 5, with the first day of school for students to be a half-day on Aug. 8. After the Columbus Day holiday on Oct. 14, fall break is scheduled for Oct. 15-18. The Thanksgiving holiday will be Nov. 27-29 and Christmas holiday will be Dec. 23-Jan. 3, 2014. Spring break is set for April 14-17, 2014, with April 18 being the Good Friday holiday.
The last day of school for students is scheduled as a half-day May 21, 2014. Graduation for the 2013-14 school year will be May 30, 2014.
• Approved a consent agenda that included the monthly personnel report and financial reports, as well as technology equipment declared surplus for disposition.
The personnel report listed the resignation of OCCHS food service employee Jessica Butler; leaves of absence for OCCHS teacher Beth McManus and Black Oak educational assistant Shannon Hogg; the retirement of bus driver Peggy Cox; and the hiring of OCCHS food service employee Wendy Coursey.
• Approved on second and final reading an amendment to board policy regarding student discrimination/harassment and bullying/intimidation and cyberbullying.
• Approved overnight student trips for South Fulton High School’s Health Occupations Students of America, OCCHS’ Family and Consumer Science and Black Oak Elementary’s PLUS class.
• Was reminded the board’s annual retreat will be Feb. 15 at the Obion County Public Library.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 2.5.13

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