Diamonds in the rough are problem for Tecumseh School Board members
The practice diamonds for baseball and softball located on the Tecumseh High School (THS) campus were a topic of contention among school trustees at Monday night’s school board meeting.
The diamonds are only partially completed, and a request from Friends of Tecumseh Baseball and Softball for further improvement was a discussion topic on the evening’s agenda. The baseball diamond infield has an irrigation system that was installed by volunteers at their expense, and both diamonds have received some preliminary grading and leveling. Backstops and fencing are being constructed, also.
The THS baseball and softball games are played on the regulation fields at Tecumseh Middle School.
The board is now confronted with the problem of whether to complete the unfinished diamonds at the district’s expense or allow the fields to lie fallow. Trustee Stanley Ames reported that $17,400 has been invested privately in materials and labor for the baseball diamond’s infield irrigation system as part of phase one of the improvements to both diamonds, with the final goal of creating serviceable practice fields for both teams.
Trustee Jim Rice took issue with the request from the organization. “I’m not comfortable with this at all,” he said. “That project was started privately and then dropped. If a group volunteers to start something, they should finish it.”
Trustee Roger Hart pointed out that improvement for the practice diamonds was begun with permission from district administrators. “If we can get it to where both teams have practice fields, we should continue,” he said. “Are we going to let them just sit there?”
Board President Ed Tritt said that the project had lacked oversight from the beginning. “I’m caught in the middle here,” he said. “Some on the board are not happy with the process. This administration or the next needs to make sure we have a policy that makes sure we have dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s before we allow this to happen again.”
Ames said that softball and baseball team members have been pitching in on the effort to improve the fields and credited trustee Hart and his wife for writing grant proposals seeking funding for the improvements. He also said that letter-writing campaigns soliciting funding from local businesses and alumni have not generated much revenue. Ames mentioned that incremental improvements include work done by the contractor repairing the parking lot at the middle school who provided fill dirt for low levels of the practice fields from the middle school parking lot excavation.
Trustee Greg Johnson had reservations about the district footing the bill for any further improvements to the fields, also. “There are other places where this money could be spent,” he said. “I assume that the fundraising will continue, though.”
“In this community it is very hard to find someone to give money to the schools because of the hard feelings among some about the football stadium,” Hart said. He was referring to the construction of the stadium that was approved by the board after a referendum for millage to construct the facility was turned down by district voters.
“This is the same scenario as the concession stand a couple of years ago,” Rice said. “As a board member, I shouldn’t be in this position at all.” The concession stand at the football stadium was initially a volunteer effort, also, but it stalled at a critical juncture, and the district was obliged to step in and finish the project.
Tritt advised the board that further discussion should wait for the next board meeting when Debbie Johnson-Berges would be sworn in and be able to participate in the deliberations on the issue. He said that, if approved, the money would come out of the general fund. “There are reasons for getting it done,” he said.
“If passed, I would say that the policy stops now,” said Rice. “Don’t start something if you can’t finish it.”
“There are lots of reasons to improve the fields,” Hart said, “but if we vote it through, it has to be made very clear that it won’t happen again.”
In other board action, trustees unanimously approved:
• A resolution supporting the continued implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
• Re-instated Robyn Francis as principal of Herrick Park and Patterson elementary schools.
After adjournment of the regular meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss contract issues with the Tecumseh Education Association (TEA), the teachers’ union. Tritt said he was optimistic about reaching an agreement with the union. The TEA rank and file will have the opportunity to vote on any proposal at a union meeting Wednesday, Sept. 18. If union membership ratifies the contract, the Tecumseh Board could seal the deal at its next meeting, Monday, Sept. 23.