Escanaba district mulls cuts to athletics

ESCANABA – Discussion on where to make cuts to the Escanaba Area Public Schools athletics program has begun.

The EAPS School Board began discussing potential areas to cut money from the district’s athletic program for the 2013-14 school year at Monday’s school board meeting, though no decisions were made.

“The finance committee met and they discussed the $45,000 cut that the board previously approved in athletics,” explained Superintendent Michele Lemire during the meeting. “In looking at where to cut, at the time we were looking at transportation, hoping not to take away anymore programs and to give as many opportunities to students as we could.”

One option discussed included implementing an activity fee for student athletes, with a family cap in place and special consideration given to students with a financial hardship. Other potential options include eliminating bus transportation for sports to Gladstone, eliminating all bus transportation or establishing a transportation limit within a certain circumference around the school, and implementing intramural sports at lower grade levels. Lemire also noted the Eskymo Fan Club may be able to help reduce costs.

“We’re looking at options, but we’re still gathering information about where else we could find some savings,” she said.

EAPS School Board President Jim Hermans noted the board wants to make a decision by the August school board meeting, but said many board members are apprehensive about putting a student activity fee in place because they do not believe it is the best option at this time.

Board Treasurer Jed Gagnier said he is more in favor of cutting busing than implementing a fee, but fellow trustee Natalie Clouse pointed out cutting busing would affect some families experiencing financial hardships or who do not have a vehicle to transport their child or children.

The board has already voted to eliminate gymnastics and boys’ tennis, which is estimated to save approximately $24,833 and $3,871 respectively. They also approved the reduction of one junior high boys’ and one junior high girls’ basketball team, estimated to save approximately $2,157 and $1,686 respectively.

“We’ve laid off people that we didn’t want to lay off. We’ve reduced programs that we didn’t want to reduce. This is a piece of that…This was a very difficult spring. There were a lot of cuts that had to be made and the board had to make a very difficult decision,” said Lemire, adding she believes the school board is trying to be thoughtful and come up with the best solution possible.

During public comment, Eskymo Fan Club President Linda Beauchamp addressed the board on the fan club’s behalf.

“I’m here tonight just to tell you we are aggressively seeking some possible solutions to the busing cuts,” she said, noting the fan club has had several meetings and conversations and wants to get their facts straight before approaching the board with a proposal.

“I would like to say that the proposal may differ depending on whether you are legitimately going to cut the busing or if you are going to keep the busing and look for alternative ways to fund it,” she added. “So maybe there needs to be a conversation at some point between all of us so that we don’t waste any time, because we know that time is of the essence here to try and come up with some solutions.”

Eskymos Gymnastics coach Theresa Pascoe also approached the board about the proper procedure for self-funding gymnastics since it has been cut and many girls have expressed an interest in the sport. Pascoe also said some money has been set aside in a gymnastics account from summer camps held at the school, but she believes the money should not be reallocated into the school’s funds if there is a possibility the sport could be self-funded.

“It should be left where it’s at until we find out if the board will give the gymnastics girls the opportunity to be a self-funding team and if so, then that money should be used to start up our program underneath the self-funding,” she said. “My concern is that it’s going to go into the general fund and we’ll have nothing to start with.”

In other business, the board:

heard a YouTube presentation by Escanaba High School Principal Doug Leisenring on test results of the 2013 Michigan Merit Exam given to all junior students. Escanaba students, on a whole, performed better than the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD and state averages in all testing areas. To view Leisenring’s presentation visit his YouTube page at

approved filling a number of coaching vacancies: Lisa Gagnon as the freshman volleyball coach, Theresa Heidt as the junior varsity volleyball coach, Theresa (Tracy) Erickson as freshman girls’ basketball coach, Christa Erickson as junior varsity girls’ basketball coach, and Matt Hughes as the head varsity hockey coach.

adopted Escanaba Upper Elementary and Escanaba Junior High School handbooks for the 2013-14 school year.