USC to Change Face of Middle School Sports
Details of the new plan are still being discussed.
Upper St. Clair athletics and administrative positions are on the chopping block as district directors work to balance the budget.
“This is the most difficult budget year that I have encountered,” said Superintendent Patrick O’ Toole. “In my experience, schools have never had a revenue reduction from the state, nor have we faced a cost escalator as ominous as the Public School Employees Retirement System projections.”
To close the gap, school officials are changing the way youth sports are offered in the district, after recently approving nearly $2 million worth of upgrades to middle school athletic fields.
“We are planning to offer sports under a different model that will reduce costs for transportation, coaches…and possibly require a fee for participation,” O’Toole said.
Board President Harry Kunselman said the model will still provide "healthy activities and the values of teamwork, perhaps more akin to intramurals."
"Parents should anticipate the possibility of having to contribute towards sustaining programming if they prefer maintaining the present arrangement," he said.
While all the details haven’t been finalized, O'Toole said the district will continue to use all of its fields. “I do not foresee fields in Upper St. Clair ever being underutilized. In fact, there will be expanded usage,” he said.
"We have seen an explosion of activities with expanded opportunities for girls' sports, soccer and lacrosse, all of which compete for limited field space," Kunselman said.
In addition to changes in district athletics, USC may also lose an administrator.
“I am presently preparing a recommendation for the board that would re-allocate administrative responsibilities, thereby reducing one position. The decision as to which position is to be cut has not been made at this time,” he said.
The recommendation is separate from the recently-hired district advancement position, he said, which will sustain itself through the procurement of funds.
"As the funding for public education changes, we must adapt," Kunselman said. "There are numerous opportunities for non-tax revenues, but resources are needed to go after them and to cultivate the kinds of relationships that are necessary to generate gifts and sponsorships. I view this advancement position as an investment that will pay dividends..."
USC is among the majority of districts across the state that are making cuts to make ends meet. Faced with budget shortfalls, school systems are cutting programs, staff, closing schools and raising taxes to operate without a deficit, according to a survey released last week by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.
The cuts range from significant to severe and are spread across the board, said Jay Himes, executive director of PASBO. Regardless of size, location or socioeconomic status, all districts are facing challenges, he said.
USC joins the 70 percent of state schools planning to cut no instructional staff and 90 percent of state schools that won’t fill vacancies, according to Jim Buckheit, executive director of PASA.
And the challenges districts are dealing with this year don’t compare to what’s to come, Himes said.
“It’s a one-year problem that worsens the following year,” he said.
This year has been "challenging and frustrating," Kunselman said. "The frustration comes from Harrisburg cutting funding without giving local districts the tools they need to reduce costs. It's like sending Albert Pujols to the plate but asking him to leave his bat in the dugout. That's not how you clear the bases."