Neosho School Board talks athletics at work session

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

The Neosho Board of Education (BOE) met on May 3 for a work session, first swearing in new board member Jenny Spiva before discussing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund opportunities for the latest round of money coming to the district from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins talked to the board about team member pay for gratitude of their efforts during the ongoing pandemic and requirement of a portion of the ESSER funds to go towards learning loss.

Athletic Director Brandi Arthur talked to the board about adding a head girls wrestling coach and an additional junior high assistant coach to develop the 7-12 girls program, the addition of archery as an activity at the high school and to discontinue the co-op agreement the district currently has with Neosho Christian School for grades 7-12.

Items discussed will be formalized at the next board meeting.

Athletics

Athletic Director Brandi Arthur brought three items before the board on May 3; the first was for them to consider adding a head girls wrestling coach an additional junior high assistant coach to develop the 7-12 girls program, the second was for the addition of archery as an activity at the high school and the third was to discontinue the co-op agreement the district currently has with Neosho Christian School for grades 7-12.

Girls wrestling was recognized by the Missouri State High School Activities Association three years ago and Arthur told the board that many schools are not seriously investing in developing programs just yet.

She added that Nixa is the only school in the Central Ozarks Conference that was fur sure hiring a girls wrestling coach next year but that others were asking for the addition of a program.

“we added a (girls) program before I was on board without adding any coaching staff,” said Arthur.

Arthur told the board it was an opportunity for the district to be proactive in supporting the girl’s program at Neosho.

Last year, around a dozen girls came out for wrestling but by years end that number was down to two or three.

“for various reasons, one girl got COVID and it knocked out three or four and it was near the end of the year and they just never came back,” said Arthur. “I would like to add a girls wrestling coach to promote those numbers, get more girls out there and keep them out there, hopefully.

There are currently three teams at the high school level, varsity, junior varsity and girls with one head coach, three assistant coaches and one junior high head coach and one junior high assistant. Arthur added that it would be difficult to staff three tournaments at three different locations while also adding that multiple mats at one tournament barely leaves enough coaches to cover the tournaments as it is.

While the girl’s coaches would be responsible for the girl’s program, they would also be able to attend boy’s tournament and assist as well.

Arthur told the board it would be about a $10,000 commitment to get the program started, with stipends for a high school coach ($7,300) and a junior high assistant ($3,285), and that they did have a coach in mind that was within the district.

Arthur also brought up Title IX, noting that it was brought up frequently when adding programs or coaching positions.

“On the girl’s side, we have 32 paid coaching positions,” said Arthur. “For the boys we have 46 paid coaching positions. Now, when you break that down per participant, the girls have one coach for every 10.5 girls, and we have one coach for every 12.5 boys. The thing that shocked me the most about this, is the total number of participants. Boys, grades 7-12 we have 583 kids participating in some athletic program. We only have 336 girls. I think adding these coaches can help level that out a bit, that’s my thought.”

Board member Stuart Puckett asked if there are girls participating in other activities at a higher rate than boys and added that he wanted to invest in existing programs to grow their involvement before adding other programs.

Next, Arthur told the board about archery, with high school teacher Brandice Garren and Tristen Linders, a student, hosting an informational meeting on Mar. 19.

A follow up form sent after the meeting had 87 students respond “yes” or “potentially” when gauging interest for an archery club program at the high school. 

An archery season would begin practice in late October or early November with an average of two days a week and a proposed plan to use the new end zone facility as a practice area.

Competitions begin in late January or early February with four or five competitions a year and a state competition in March.

Arthur said the junior high team has seen success and the board received insight from Puckett, who has a son that competes.

“Were building these buildings in Neosho for a multitude of reasons,” said Puckett. “One of those reasons is for them to be used, for them to be a draw to the community. I don’t know the exact number of kids that participated or families that were there, but I went to Lamar and over 1,100 kids participated in the Lamar shoot over a two-day period, they brought friends and family to that community. The gym was packed. We stand ready to be bale to do the same thing in Neosho, we’ll have the facilities, it’ll be right there on the boulevard and the whole community could benefit.”

The cost of the program would be around $3,900 to get it started with an estimated $5,420 for start up equipment but a $1,500 grant was available to help offset that cost.

Other expenses would include a coaching stipend ($1,200) and competition entry fees (1,000).

The first year would cost around $6,400 with around $3,000 every following year to maintain the program.

Finally, Arthur discussed the issue with the cooperative agreement with Neosho Christian School (NCS)

Neosho currently co-ops with NCS in soccer, boys golf and track and field and has had an agreement for the past several years.

“Traditionally, when you have really small schools that don’t have the numbers to make athletic teams, they will co-op with other schools and work together so they can have teams,” said Arthur. “This year, we had a little hiccup.”

With the co-op agreement the enrollment of NCS is added into Neosho’s when they’re classified for athletics. This year, NCS’ 19 students put Neosho in the highest class for track and field for post season competition.

The issue was that of the three sports in the co-op agreement, only one participated in a sport and that was boys golf.

Since 2013, there have been co-op agreement with carious sports whether that be softball, football, wrestling, track and field or boys’ soccer, yet in that time there have only been a total of four students that participated from NCS.

“The participation numbers have never been high from the Christian school and I think that’s a big gamble to take as far as if that’s going to put us in the next classification for our students,” said Arthur. “we have 100 kids on our track team who all now will have to compete against the highest class in Missouri because we co-op with (NCS) and they didn’t send us anybody.”

Superintendent Dr. Jim Cummins said he spoke with the outgoing superintendent for NCS and said that one of the frustrations discussed between the two was that NCS asked for interest in the spring and received it but that when the season comes, they don’t participate.

Board member Dan Haskins said that NCS’ students were their students too.

“Those families are our taxpayers too,” said Haskins. “This is an opportunity to serve them for those needs. I don’t want to deprive some kiddo of an opportunity to run track or whatever it is. Should we be fearful of competition?”

Haskins focus was not on the competitive aspect of it but to see what could be done to better foster the relationship to get more involvement.

Board President Jonathan Russell commented that they could revisit the agreement every year while looking at each specific sport.

“I definitely want to maintain that relationship with the Christian school,” said Russell.

Puckett asked when the commitment was needed for the co-op agreement and Arthur answered that it was due at the end of May and that posed an issue for when the sports came the following year and interest had waned.

Board member Jenny Spiva asked if the high school coaches had gone to NCS and talked to the students there and her and Haskins agreed that coaches going to the school could help get a student interested.

At the end of the discussion, the board agreed that it would like more input on participation.