SHS on Academic Probation—School Board upgrades football practice field

What kind of message does the Salem Community Schools Board send to the students and to the community by deciding to upgrade the football practice field shortly after Salem High School was put on academic probation by the State Department of Education?

The old practice field is fifty years old and has seen plenty of use. Certainly football players, parents, and fans always want the best facilities for our students. Everyone can understand that. But, the Salem Community Schools Board represents the community, the tax payers, and the school system. They must allocate school funds and direct the work of school employees to provide the best education for every student in Salem Community Schools. SHS is on academic probation—and this is NOT a good time for expensive athletic improvements, especially because it is also a time of staff reduction and of constricting many school programs due to the economic crisis.

Several issues emerge:

* Why was there no public notice about this decision? There is no record of discussion in the Board Minutes for the past six months [excluding February, which is not yet posted to the public].

* Since the practice field is in a flood plain, has approval been sought and given by appropriate state flood control and land management agencies?

* What kind of damage will this upgrade cause to beautiful Brock Creek?

* Why would this upgrade be more important than other proposed improvements, such as the proposed improvement to the Bradie Shrum cafeteria? Having eaten at Bradie Shrum recently with a great-grandchild, I was stunned at the horrible environment in the cafeteria. The staff was friendly, caring, and worked hard, but the crowding and herding of the children, the regimentation and rushing of the meal, the dark cave-like atmosphere, the terrific noise, the children forced to eat with their coats on because they leave for recess afterward, all left me feeling I had experienced a nightmare. I am sad for our children who have to eat in such a grim and uninviting place every day.

* High school students always complain that the athletic program is given preference over other programs. This sneaky maneuver to begin an athletic field upgrade without public discussion is yet another confirmation of that complaint.

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