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Guilderland budget cuts questioned

Students, parents plead to keep assistant coaches and enrichment

Jonah Goldstein, a seventh grade student, petitions the Guilderland Board of Education to restore the middle school enrichment program, which is slated for elimination in the 2013-14 budget.

Jonah Goldstein, a seventh grade student, petitions the Guilderland Board of Education to restore the middle school enrichment program, which is slated for elimination in the 2013-14 budget. Photo by John Purcell.

— Guilderland parents and middle school students are petitioning the school board to keep some cuts off the chopping block.

The Guilderland Central School District Board of Education held an informal budget hearing Wednesday, March 20, on potential 2013-14 budget reductions. The two cuts that caused the most concern among meeting attendees focused on eliminating the middle school enrichment program for a $72,000 savings and eliminating assistant coaching positions for around $22,500 in savings.

District officials and board members are determining how to close a $2.1 million budget gap in order to stay within the district’s property tax cap limit of a 3.5 percent tax hike. Superintendent Marie Wiles presented the district’s draft budget Feb. 28, totaling $90.8 million and carrying the elimination of 31.5 full-time equivalent positions.

Jeff Cohen, president of the Girls Soccer Booster Club, said cutting six assistant coaches wouldn’t allow for proper supervision and support of student athletes. He also said there could be a hidden cost to the district after cutting the assistant coaches from boys and girls JV lacrosse, boys and girls varsity soccer, wrestling and gymnastics.

“The liability of the district goes up if the supervision provided for the athletic programs is inadequate,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he wouldn’t be voting “yes” on the budget unless the “appropriate level of supervision in safety” is maintained by not cutting assistant coaches.

Bob McLaughlin said all four of his children have played school sports and assistant coaches played a vital role in safety and development.

“If sports is an extension of the classroom in that it helps breed cooperation, working collectively toward a common goal, dedication, then you must also realize the safety aspects involved,” McLaughlin said.

He said his son, Jim, had two concussions while playing sports in high school, but the assistant coaches helped make the program safer.

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