Readers Write: Schreiber lagging; time to cut football

Readers Write: Schreiber lagging; time to cut football

Last year, three Nassau County high schools — Great Neck, Herricks and Manhasset — each produced eight finalists (not semi-finalists, but finalists) for the 2015 Siemens Competition in math, science and technology, our nation’s premier science research competition for high school students.
Producing eight finalists, rather than only a possible one or two, at the most, was an incredible achievement for each of those high schools.
Eventually, a young woman from a Florida high school won the Siemens $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual Category, while two young women from Manhasset High School won the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Team Category.
This was an outstanding achievement for our neighboring Manhasset school district, one that they can be justly proud of, for many years to come.
Our Schreiber High School in Port did not produce a single Siemens finalist last year and I’m not sure if we even produced a single semifinalist for the 2015 competition.
In fact, I’m not sure if Schreiber High participated in the Siemens Competition, at all, because as explained by the president of our school board a couple of years back, that terrible 2 percent property tax levy cap that Albany has burdened us with, is preventing our school district from taxing you more heavily than it does, so choices have to be made about where our school district spends its money.
Our school officials (school board and school administrators) have made the choice not to spend money on the Siemens Competition, or on any enhanced STEM programs for the kids, but instead, they’ve chosen to spend their money on sports.
As of today, I believe that our school district is paying for 90 different sports teams at our middle and high schools, but we don’t have the money to pay for a pre-engineering program for our kids, like the ones recently instituted in the Roslyn and East Williston school districts.
Of course, the Great Neck, Herricks and Manhasset  school districts also have to deal with the property tax levy cap and they also have to make budgetary choices.
Perhaps, the chairman of our school board’s budget and facilities committee should be tasked to contact these three school districts and find out from them, how they manage to deal with the tax levy cap and also participate in the annual Siemens Competition.  
But last year, our Schreiber High did produce a record number, for the county, of high school students with brain concussions.
According to a Page one story in the Aug. 19 issue of the Port Washington Times, last football season, six Schreiber players  “suffered (brain) concussions, the most in Nassau County”.
Ms. Stephanie Joannon, our school district’s director of health, physical education and athletics, who is quoted in the story, appears to attribute this medical catastrophe to our football team playing in the wrong conference.
She says that because of our large high school enrollment (1,500), we’ve been forced to play in a conference where most other schools in the conference field significantly larger football teams than Port does.
I guess her speculation is, players on the larger teams must each get less playing time than our Port players do and hence, they are less likely to suffer brain concussions. I think that her speculation is, mostly nonsense.
Ms. Joannon went on to say, “After starting the (last) season with 35 players, the (Port) Vikings finished with 23 players. Joannon said that there were 57 missed practices last year due to injuries and seven starters finished the season injured. In the past two seasons in Conference 1, Port Washington finished (with a record of) 3 (wins) and 15 (losses), and was outscored by opponents last season, 291 to 51. When the program (administrators, football coaches, etc.?) decided not to play in Conference 1 (again), Joannon said, the school was faced with three options: eliminating football entirely, ending the varsity program, or playing an independent schedule.”
Ms. Joannon also went on to say that she consulted our superintendent of schools, Dr. Mooney, who she found very supportive (of whichever option was chosen) and that she, Ms. Joannon, also consulted some very interested parents, as well as our newly hired football coach, Mr. Adam Hovorka.
The consensus was that Port should continue to play football, but against less powerful teams.
So, Ms. Joannon reached out to some private schools on Long Island and in Westchester County and has thus far been able to create an “independent schedule” of five games for our football team, for this coming football season.
Ms. Joannon, Mr. Hovorka, Dr. Mooney and probably our school board, all think that this a positive accomplishment and that the likelihood of more student brain concussions this coming football season, has been diminished. I think that this is very erroneous thinking.
High school football is a violent “contact sport”, no matter what school the game is played at.
That’s why the players wear armored helmets and more body armor than Roman gladiators ever wore.
A team’s progress down the field toward its goal line, is made by pushing the other team out of the way, not as gently as possible, but as violently as possible.  
Minor injuries, serious injuries, brain concussions and even deaths, can occur during any football game, or football practice session.
Why would any caring parent, or right thinking school administrator, want to allow students to participate in such a dangerous sport?
Ms. Joannon doesn’t know if any of the private schools that Port is about to play will be fielding 350-pound players, or not.
She probably assumes that they will not and that thus, our Port team will suffer fewer injuries this year than last year.
Can any sensible person believe that this is a gamble worth taking?
In my opinion, any football program should be eliminated entirely, in our school district.
Not only is the program too dangerous, it’s too expensive.
Not too long ago, a former Port school board member privately estimated the cost of our football program to be $500,000 a year.
I have to assume that he had access to data that allowed him to make an accurate estimate.
I assume that with inflation and now with the addition of a new football coach, Mr. Hovorka, that $500,000 figure might have grown to $600,000, or more.
Wouldn’t that much money be better spent on preparation for a Siemens Competition and other STEM programs for the kids?
How does our student body, school district  and community, benefit, educationally, by football?
I don’t see it.
Joel Katz
Port Washington

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