Speakers back athletics, activities levy
By REBECCA OLSON
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
December 14, 2011 · Updated 1:12 PM
Nearly 100 students, parents, teachers and community members attended the Oak Harbor School Board meeting Monday night to show their support for a future tax levy to fund activities and athletics programs at Oak Harbor schools.
As the district begins long-range planning for the 2013 levy election, the board held a forum to hear input about a possible athletics and activities levy.
Federal Impact Aid presently covers approximately $700,000 each year for athletics and other after-school activities. However, Impact Aid has been reduced by 20 percent over the last five years and is projected to continue shrinking by approximately $300,000 a year, according to Superintendent Rick Schulte.
Most communities pay for athletics and activities through a local property tax levy, which provides stable funding, Schulte said.
Students and teachers from the choir club, Key Club, cheerleading, athletics and more showed up to argue that what’s most important about athletics and activities isn’t the activity itself but the life skills students learn, including teamwork, leadership, community service, commitment, respect, courage and the importance of balancing schoolwork and activities.
Lizzy Chase, president of the 88-member Key Club, said the club allows students to get together and make a difference. Students learn leadership, how to speak publicly and to make a difference in the community, she said.
“I want my kids in schools where they have lots of things to do,” said Oak Harbor High School associate principal and father, Bill Weinsheimer. When he asked his young daughter what her favorite subjects in school are, she replied science and music. Now she worries that music may be cut, Weinsheimer said.
“It’s hard to think of cutting things that make their day,” Weinsheimer said.
“If we don’t pay for the kids now, what are we going to do with them if they don’t have the after-school activities?” asked Robin Gohn, Oak Harbor High School head cheer coach, adding that the community should pay for the students in a positive way now rather than paying for their crimes in the future.
Everyone who came to the microphone said they support a levy for athletics and activities, although the money desired ranged from the minimum amount the district needs to the maximum amount the district can levy. When Corey Johnson, board president, verified that he was hearing that people would support the highest levy, applause rose from the crowd.
To gain support for a levy, people suggested advertising and showing the community how much these activities mean to the district.
“I think it’s really important the 18-year-olds get hit hard with this,” Josh Ekberg, vice president of the Key Club, said. He’s willing to gather friends to make signs and stand on the street corner to advertise. Students are willing to put their hearts into this project and use Facebook and non-traditional means to spread the word, Ekberg said.
“We will help out with any ad project involved,” Ekberg said.
There isn’t any one single activity that should be cut; if one group has to suffer, they should all suffer with cuts, Chase added.
“I think the community will support us if it sees we’re united,” Chase said, a thought echoed by many speakers.
“I believe as a state, town, country we are very divided,” said Gina Bull, who worked for the school district for 13 years. She said people need something to rally around and this issue is it.
“It can’t just come from activity folks, it can’t just come from sports folks, it can’t just come from the school board,” Bull said, emphasizing that everyone needs to get involved in order to show the community what the school district needs.
To share you opinion, email remarks to Superintendent Rick Schulte at email@example.com.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Rebecca Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5052.