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Apparel conversation turns to coaches, kids

Staff writer

Reactions were mixed Monday when a spreadsheet of high school activity clothes offerings and their prices was projected at the USD 408 board of education meeting.

High school principal Tod Gordon compiled the spreadsheet from coaches and activity leaders.

The pattern was that most groups had required or optional T-shirts, and maybe an extra optional item or two.

Girls’ sports offered or required the most clothing, with cheerleading incurring by far the highest required costs. Volleyball and softball had the most optional clothing options.

While the board took in the figures, superintendent Lee Leiker gave his opinion.

“Sometimes being a leader means not doing what everybody does,” he said. “It can be tough to say no, but being a leader’s tough sometimes. It’s hard to do. I think we need to tell kids it’s OK to do that.”

Board vice president Jan Helmer dissented.

“I think this is still a topic,” she said.

She contended that many items, particularly optional items, were new additions of dubious necessity. She cited two of her daughter’s teams as examples.

“Lauren said they didn’t have a required hat for softball, she didn’t have a shooting shirt for basketball. She graduated in 2008,” Helmer said. “Why is it all of a sudden that we have to have these things?”

Gordon defended the clothing options and prices by saying it was what kids wanted. He said optional, personalized basketball warm-ups replaced school-issued ones because kids wanted their names on the back.

“We had the warm-ups, but kids wouldn’t even wear them,” he said.

Ultimately board members agreed the situation was problematic, and that costs could add up with multiple children in multiple activities.

The question then became one of responsibility. Whose job is it to curb the problem? The board could make a policy, or coaches could offer fewer options, or kids could desire fewer options, or parents could simply tell their kids “no.”

The board decided the onus wasn’t on it to set a concrete policy.

“I’d be uncomfortable making a sweeping policy,” president Jeremiah Lange said, “but encouraging everyone, reminding them that we are in a significant state-aid district, and that this is an expense. It’s not feasible for all parents to come up with money every three months to do this.”

Laura Baldwin, who was in attendance on behalf of the student international travel group to ask approval for fundraising measures, chimed in.

“You do have to plan, even if you’re a hardworking parent who tries to be responsible and who has told their children ‘no’ on many things,” she said. Two of her children are in college while the third is a junior at Marion High School. “But the weight of being part of a team is pretty heavy. Some of the things listed as optional are optional only up to the point where you don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t have it.”

The board decided to remind coaches to consider costs when offering team apparel, and to monitor the situation as needed.

In other business:

  • Baldwin and Amy Kjellin received approval for additional fundraising efforts for travel abroad, including the sale of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at sporting events and Yankee Candle products through the school.

Last modified Oct. 14, 2015

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