The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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September 6, 2013

Conneaut school board rethinking pay-for-play

CONNEAUT — Conneaut’s Board of Education may pull the plug on the local district’s pay-for-play program at the end of this school year, board president Cris Newcomb said.

No formal decision has been made and more investigation is needed, but members are warming to the idea, Newcomb said.

“Nothing has been finalized and we’ll think about it more towards the end of this school year, but I think the board is in agreement that we could get rid of it,” he said.

The board may want to add a program or two to help recoup some of the revenue pay-for-play earns, Newcomb said. One option may revive return of the season pass, which — for one flat fee —would admit the bearer to every sporting/extracurricular event.

Conneaut charges students $150 to participate in an unlimited number of school sports and activities. The fee earned about $27,000 last school year, Newcomb said.

The school board understands the fee can be a hardship and an obstacle for some families, Newcomb said.

“The discussion we’re having deals with finding ways to ease the (financial) burden on some parents,” he said. “(The fee) brings in a decent amount of revenue, but some folks find it difficult to make the payment.”

School administrators do work with families who find it hard to pay the $150 up front, Newcomb said.

The board would not consider ending pay-for-play to attract students from districts where similar fees are more expensive, Newcomb said.

“It would not be a recruiting tool,” she said. “The sole motive would be to help families of Conneaut students.”

The policy can’t be shelved this year because too many students have already paid and reimbursement would be a headache, Newcomb said. “Our administrators have enough to do right now,” he said.

The board’s willingness to end pay-for-play comes one year after two former members, Michael Joslin and Nicholas Iarocci, spoke out in opposition to the program, believing it is hurting Spartan sports — football in particular. Board member Sonny Heinonen has regularly urged his peers to reconsider the pay-for-play program.

Reached for comment Thursday, Heinonen said he would be willing to wait a year to see the policy go away. “I’ll do what it takes to get it done,” he said.

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