Parents must act now to keep coaches in East Providence
To the editor,
I am writing this letter as a parent.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, I watched my two daughters and 13 of their East Providence High School teammates celebrate winning the JV volleyball state championship on the floor with their coach Mike Solitro at North Kingstown High School. They were celebrating the culmination of hard work and an undefeated season since they began on Aug. 20.
As I was watching proudly, I overheard a parent thanking Coach Solitro for everything he has done. She went on to explain how he has inspired her daughter to be the best player she can be. I was amazed at how these girls, who had never played the sport before stepping into the high school, could come so far and accomplish such a feat. I thought how lucky I am that my own children love school, their teachers and coaches, and just being a Townie. Then, I realized this could be the last of something special.
I am calling on all parents to take action now!
The budget commission is ready to institute a 60-percent pay cut on all coaches, the band director, and all academic advisors at the high school. If this is allowed, it will decimate the band as well as all of our athletic programs and extracurricular clubs. And as we all know, those programs can be the lifeblood of our high school. In this particular article, I will address the athletic issue. However, please be advised that the band and academic clubs will be devastated at the same time.
Most of our coaches live in East Providence and pay the same high taxes as every other taxpayer. They, too, have witnessed the values of their homes drop. Many of those same coaches, who are teachers, have lost an average of $6,000 off their salaries by the implementation from the previous school committee three years ago.
Times are tough everywhere. So would anyone blame our coaches for looking for another coaching job at LaSalle or next door in Barrington? Just about all coaches coach for the love of the sport, love of the kids, and their own passion to compete. These same coaches could have already left for greener pastures where there are better facilities, better equipment, and bigger budgets. But they haven’t and because they love it at EPHS! They believe in Townie Pride and the children of our city! But a draconian cut of 60 percent?
A teacher can’t work a couple of road details to help support their family. They can’t take a couple of extra overtime shifts. Many coaches already work over the summer at camps, clinics, and other coaching jobs. Being a coach myself, I can assure you that I don’t coach for the money. However, after the nearly three month season is over, it helps to be compensated the nearly $3,000 (after taxes) to add to the college fund, contribute to the IRA, or even to replace the worn out rug in the house.
Cynics will say I am only trying to spare my current softball salary. Due to the fact that my own children are on the softball team, I will be the coach for the next four years. Still, can you blame other coaches who are not in my situation for leaving? I feel if I were to quit, protesting my 60-percent pay cut, my replacement might end up being the well-intentioned guy who coached the Little League team, but doesn’t know the correct way to teach a player to bunt? Is that what will happen with all of our teams? Will future coaches be basically volunteers who mean well, but don’t understand the intricacies of the game and the proper way to interact with players? Will our student-athletes no longer be pushed to excel? Will they be pushed too far? Will these coaches have a rapport with the local college coaches? These questions are worth pondering.
It is no secret that many of our best athletes are also our best students. Look no further than our same EPHS volleyball team. Our starting players include the valedictorian, salutatorian, along with the ninth-ranked student in the senior class. In the future, would this same type of student-athlete choose to go to LaSalle or Bay View where they can get a quality education and play volleyball for an established coach? Still, as I have witnessed all year long, the coaches at those schools lack in knowledge and communication skills compared with our own coaches, Alex Butler and Mr. Solitro. In fact, I am willing to bet the athletic directors at those schools would hire many of our coaches right now. A case in point is legendary EPHS coach Sandy Gorham who has been hired to coach the swim and softball teams at Barrington High School.
The budget commission’s job is not to be concerned with what happens to our children. That is not their purview. They are hired to balance a budget. They are here to make difficult decisions regarding numbers and bottom lines. Right now, we are making their jobs easier by sitting back. In their eyes, an uncontested decision is an easy decision. I hope that we still have time to affect their decision. Can you picture Pierce Field on future Friday nights with volunteers at the helm? Imagine no Spanish, Portuguese, GSA, or Yearbook Clubs for your children?
If you would like to get involved, please attend the budget commission meetings, write a letter or email to the commission at EP.BudgetCommission@revenue.ri.gov., write to the Post and Reporter, and sign the online petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/east-providence-budget-commission-spare-the-salaries-of-the-coaches-band-director-and-academic-advisors.
I write this letter because I am concerned for the future of our children. I worry that a 60-percent hit will send many of our great coaches packing. I worry that our children won’t have the same experience that so many other children have had before them. I am concerned that Townie Pride will take yet another hit. In conclusion, I pray that the celebration that I witnessed on that volleyball court on Saturday, Nov. 3, won’t be the last one I see at EPHS.
Mr. Traverse is a guidance counselor and softball coach at EPHS.