NEWARK — Joe Bailey, a village resident and taxpayer, asked why his girls couldn't play on one of the Newark school district's modified sports teams.
Standing in front of the school board on Nov. 6, Bailey explained that his kids attend St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva and thanked the board for busing them back and forth to school each day … but why couldn't they play sports with their neighbors and friends back home in Newark?
He said that when the St. Michael's School was open in Newark, students there participated in the Newark middle school's modified sports programs. Now St. Michael's is shuttered, and because he wanted an education with a religious background for his children, Bailey sent his kids to St. Francis-St. Stephen.
When the Bailey kids started to go in school in Geneva, they had a sports program available to them at DeSales, "and then DeSales closed," he said.
"I contacted Section 5," Bailey said. "They told me the only way my children could play sports was in the district they attend." He said he had consulted with a work colleague who lives in Warsaw and sends his children to a parochial school in Batavia – those kids are allowed to play sports in Warsaw.
Bailey said there weren't many kids who would participate in the modified sports programs: "We're not looking at kids taking spots from kids in Newark." He added that parochial school students who have previously played in Newark teams have been "valued contributors."
And he asked the school board for help.
"Why can't they play ball here?" asked Board Member Joe DeSanto. "What about students who go to school out of town – why can't they play here with their neighbors and friends. I don't understand."
Nick Amatulli, the new district athletic director, told the board he had made calls to Albany on behalf of the Bailey family and had talked to other athletic directors in the area. Because the Bailey kids attend school in Geneva, "they're not considered bona fide residents in the district."
He said that St. Francis-St. Stephen would have to apply for membership in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), then petition the Newark school board to participate in sports here. Amatulli added that if that were to happen, and the school board accepted the petition, other students from St. Francis-St. Stephen would also be eligible to play on a Newark team – not just the kids from the village who attend the Geneva school.
"The first step is with St. Francis-St. Stephen," advised Newark Schools Superintendent Matt Cook. "If that doesn't happen, it's a moot point."
Board Member Tom Ledbetter asked Amatulli if kids like the Bailey girls could "practice but not play?"
Page 2 of 2 - "There may be a liability," warned Amatulli.
Board Member Andrew Correia said he was "generally supportive, but concerned about not being able to have a limit (on the kids who could play)."
Cook said he would get more information for the board.
Amatulli had been asked to address the board about certifications for coaches, something that arose as a problem in September when the boys soccer program started out with a rapid elevation of the JV coach when the varsity coach's certification renewal fell through the cracks.
He explained that any certified physical education teacher can coach any sport, but needs to maintain current CPR and first aid certifications. Anyone with a valid teaching certificate may coach if they are CPR/first aid-certified and completed three courses: "Philosophy, Principles and Organization of Athletics," "Health Sciences Applied to Coaching" and "Theory and Techniques of Coaching" specific to that sport.
All coaches must also complete a concussion-management course, and Amatulli said "We had more than a few kids that were hurt this fall with concussions."
"We depend a lot on non-teaching-staff coaches," he told the board, and said those folks are "really put through the ringer" with all the necessary coursework plus a child abuse course, school violence prevention instruction, and fingerprinting.
Amatulli warned, "We're going to lose a lot of coaches because of how much coursework they have to do." The modified wrestling program is without a coach and there's great interest in the sport, he added.
"Is there anything we could do to attract coaches?" Correia asked.
"Salary-wise?" asked Amatulli said.
"I'm concerned we haven't been able to adequately compensate our coaches compared to other districts," Correia said.
"We're better than some and not as good as others," Amatulli said.
He also told the board with all the coaches and coursework and new requirements, his office had constructed a spreadsheet and database to prevent what happened in September from recurring.