The state’s Board of Education voted late Thursday night not to ax junior varsity sports, but instead to find other ways to deal with budget cuts.
At the meeting at Waipahu Intermediate School, board members voted 7-4 to send back to the Department of Education $9.2 million in budget reductions but added an exclusion of athletics from consideration.
Many members of the athletic community — not limited to O‘ahu residents — provided testimony swaying the members to spare the JV and select varsity sports in jeopardy. Among those voicing concern for the some 6,000 athletes statewide who would be affected was University of Hawai‘i head football coach Greg McMackin, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Rep. James Tokioka, D-Lihu‘e-Koloa.
“I felt it was important to be at the Department of Education’s board meeting to represent the Neighbor Island’s perspective on how important high school sports programs are to our rural communities,” Tokioka said. “Sometimes our voices are not heard because we’re not on O‘ahu.”
In his testimony, Tokioka said that he received many calls and inquiries from concerned people and spoke with all the public school athletic directors who all opposed the projected cut.
“I am very cognizant that sports are not the most important part of the education of our children. I also know that sports is the biggest motivator for many of our kids to do well in school. It shouldn’t be, but in reality, it is,” Tokioka said. “We don’t have the opportunity to watch UH sports in person like people from O‘ahu (do). We have high school sports… We have limited options on Kaua‘i. If the board were to cut funding for our athletic programs, in my opinion, our way of life will undoubtedly be negatively impacted.”
If the proposal was approved, it would have affected the 2008-09 athletic season. Upon hearing that JV sports would remain intact, Waimea High School second year junior varsity boys volleyball coach Enoki Karratti said that was good news.
“I think the kids who come out for JV get used to the game before they get to the varsity level,” he said. “When I heard the news that (the board) would possibly get rid of (JV), I was surprised. It gives kids something to do other than stay at home and sit around.”
Kaua‘i High School JV football coach Jon Takamura was also glad to hear that the programs would not be affected. Takamura is also a lieutenant for the Kaua‘i Police Department and said that from a law enforcement officer’s standpoint, athletics is a positive outlet for kids.
“It’s the best tool for keeping kids out of trouble,” Takamura said. “The biggest thing is it’s a structured program and it’s not only about coaching, it’s about teaching the kids life lessons too.”
Assistant schools superintendent and former Kaua‘i Complex superintendent Daniel Hamada said the board meeting gave the DOE clarity as what should or shouldn’t be cut from the schools.
“It gave us clearer guidelines as for what to do now and what to focus on,” Hamada said. “At the end of the day, we don’t want to cut anything. The bottom line is, we want to maintain the core. We don’t want to touch anything that will affect the classroom.”
Hamada also said the board will meet with complex superintendents to examine other possibilities.
It was previously reported that the coaches’ salaries would be more impacted by the budget cuts, but there was a lot of focus on JV sports. After Thursday’s meeting, the board concluded also not to touch coaches’ salaries either.
The Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation executive board earlier in the year was in talks of the possibility of adding more junior varsity sports, but that went into question once budget cuts were raised.
• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or email@example.com