The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

September 20, 2013

Pay-for-play will end next year in Conneaut’s schools

CONNEAUT —  Beginning next school year, students in the Conneaut Area City Schools district won’t pay a penny to participate in scholastic sports and other extracurriculars.

Conneaut’s Board of Education, at Wednesday night’s regular meeting, unanimously agreed to abolish the district’s pay-for-play policy begun March 2009. The policy goes away at the start of the 2014-2015 year.

The action comes one year after two former board members, Nicholas Iarocci and Mike Joslin, urged the fee be rescinded because they believed it hurt Spartan sports rosters. On Thursday, Joslin applauded the board’s vote.

“In my opinion, I think they made a wonderful decision that will benefit the kids,” he said. “Will more kids play sports? Time will tell. But it eliminates an obstacle that would stop them from playing.”

Conneaut is nearly alone in Ashtabula County in abolishing such a fee. Pymatuning Valley Local Schools is the only other district with no pay-for-play charge, said John Rubesich, superintendent of the Ashtabula County Educa-tional Services Center.

“I think the (Conneaut) board said, let’s take a look at it and see the impact on student participation,” Rubesich said. “They don’t want to penalize the kids.”

Members approved the pay-for-play motion with no comment. “We’ve had some pretty good discussions between board members and the community,” Cris Newcomb, president, said Thursday.

This will be the last year students pay the $150 fee, which entitles kids to join an unlimited number of activities during the course of a school year.

The fee earned around $27,000 last school year, money used primarily to fuel the school buses that take kids to and from games and events, administrators have said.

The fee definitely worked a hardship on some families, Newcomb said. Some were paying the $150 on an installment plan, he said.

Board members hope to recoup the some of the lost revenue via a season pass program for admission to all school activities. “We can always reimpose the fee if we’re struggling,” he said.

In other business, the board approved a new two-year contract with members of the Conneaut Education Association, which represents the district’s certified staff.

Eligible teachers will receive a 1 percent increase on their base rate, while educators not eligible for that increase will get a $500 stipend, Newcomb said. In return, CEA members will pick up an extra 2 percent of their health insurance cost, bringing their contribution to 10 percent, he said.

“We will have labor peace for another two years with the teachers’ union,” Superintendent Kent Houston said at the meeting.

Gary Case, CEA president, told the board the teachers who cast a vote were unanimous in their approval.

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