CLARK, NJ – Rumored cuts to Arthur L. Johnson’s athletic programs remained a hot topic at the July 10 Clark Board of Education meeting. As previously reported, the district is struggling to close an almost two-million-dollar budget deficit.
At the June 13 meeting, board members tried to quell rumors that certain athletic programs at ALJ may be dropped for the upcoming school year. At Monday’s meeting, the board reiterated that no decisions have been made yet.
“We will continue to look at every angle until its solved. And just know that almost everyone on this board either has children in the district or had children in the district,” said Board President Jill Curran. “So, we want what’s best for all the kids in this district as well.”
Garwood resident Bill Worobetz thanked Superintendent Ed Grande for responding to his concerns over the last few weeks. Worobetz’s son is part of the cross-country team at ALJ. He spoke of the athletes’ dedication to their sport and his concern that the season is set to begin in six weeks. “These kids were there at 7:00 this morning,” said Worobetz. He added that once he heard that the team may be dissolved, he searched for other possibilities for his son but came up empty.
Worobetz also stated that there was no notification about the possible athletic cuts. Board member Robert Smorol responded that, “there is nothing to notify you about right now.”
“We never said any sport that was going to be cut,” added Board member Laura Caliguire. “Members of the district and community came to the [June 13] meeting telling us what was going to be cut. We’ve had confidential discussions of possibilities, of things that may be done… None of us know where the specific sports were named.”
David Sener, whose daughter swims at ALJ, said he is looking at private school to give his daughter the opportunity to continue with her sport. He expressed his frustration that while the Clark swim team does not generate a lot of expenditures, other school districts in the area, such as Elizabeth, have better facilities and equipment. Smorol responded that those districts get “about 10 to 15 times more state aid then Clark.”
ALJ student athlete Tyler Moreira shared money saving ideas he had shared with Grande. He cited “pay-to-play” as an option for some of the teams. To cut down on bus costs, he suggested that athletes and parents carpool to events when possible.
“Just possible ideas to not cut varsity sports, no matter what sport it is,” said Moreira. “I’m trying to figure out what is possible so that no one is greatly affected.”
“We are going to try to do everything we can. We are in a crisis and we don’t want to leave anybody behind,” said Board member Thomas Lewis. “I don’t want you to think you are speaking on deaf ears. We care.”
“We don’t want to get rid of any sports,” said Smorol. “Unfortunately, no matter what decision we make… somebody’s not going to be happy. But we have to do what we believe is in the best interest of the district.”
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