(09/04/2002)

Patty Laughlin presents parents case to school board

"It was a silent brick wall," said youth football league parent Patty Laughlin, who presented a petition to the Calhoun School Board last night asking to use the school's new football field four times this fall, one time for a championship game.

The petitions had 580 signatures, with more to come, said Laughlin.

"We want a clean and proud place to play," asking the Board to re-consider. "I was angry at the lack of response," she said.

School board president Rick Fitzwater said "I cannot see how it can benefit the field. It's too fragile. We are not against youth football, we're trying to protect the new field as much as possible," he said.

Superintendent Blankenship and President Fitzwater
listen to parents concerns

Board member Carlene Frederick said "I hope we can work through the problem."

During last month's meeting Superintendent Blankenship said the field was in bad shape, problems with rooting and lack of water, and told the group's representative it was not a permanent decision. He said he applauded the actions of the parents on behalf of the kids, but asked them to consider the problem.

Ms. Laughlin invited school board members to come and see the "deplorable conditions" at Wayne Underwood Field. They did not respond.

Fitzwater explained the decision was a consensus of the board based upon a recommendation by Superintendent Ron Blankenship, and did not require a vote.

"I am sadly disappointed and lots of kids are disappointed," said Laughlin.

The Calhoun County School Board recently donated the old Wayne Underwood Field to the Calhoun Commission, and numerous youth league groups are using the field, although the bleachers and other equipment have been removed. "We've put a lot of work in Wayne Underwood Field to make it useable," said Laughlin.

A school official said he was confused why youth football parents were upset, because property belonging to the school and the Band Boosters was removed from the old field.

"The band boosters earned every dime for the equipment in the snack bar," he said. "The board owns the equipment, and some of it is being used at the new field, mostly because of lack of money."

The Calhoun County Athletic Complex Committee, the volunteer group responsible for helping develop the new field, said thousands of volunteer hours have gone into readying the new field. President Kelley Houchin said "It has been a struggle." She was hopeful the problems between parents, the school system and school board members could be worked out.


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