Although the Paul D. Schreiber High School football team is playing an independent schedule this season to combat injuries and seek fairer competition, some parents said further steps need to be taken to deal with the football program.

In a letter to the editor in the Port Washington Times, Joel Katz, a Port Washington resident and parent of former Schreiber students, said that the school district should eliminate the football program.

“Minor injuries, serious injuries, brain concussions and even deaths, can occur during any football game, or football practice session,” Katz said in the letter. “Why would any caring parent, or right thinking school administrator, want to allow students to participate in such a dangerous sport?”

In response, the school superintendent, Dr. Kathleen Mooney, said that players’ safety was a top priority and the district sought to educate the whole child, supporting athletics as well as the arts. 

Stephanie Joannon, the district’s director of health, physical education and athletics, said she held meetings with parents to discuss the future of the football program after six players suffered concussions last season and there were 57  missed practices.

As a result, Port Washington elected to leave the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and play an independent schedule against private schools on Long Island and in Westchester.

Katz, however, said he and other parents aren’t satisfied with the district’s decision to switch to an independent schedule.

“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,” Katz said. “I think that this is very erroneous thinking.”

Adam Hovorka is the newly hired football coach.

Katz added that a former Port Washington Board of Education member told him that the football program costs around $500,000 a year.

“There needs to be some type of change in the district concerning the football program,” said another parent who asked to remain unnamed. Two other parents who wished to remain unnamed agreed, stating that with all of the problems facing football, if a change isn’t made soon, more children are going to be put in danger.

In  response to Katz’s letter,   Mooney said in a letter to the editor in the Port Washington Times that  the varsity, junior varsity and middle school football programs cost $87,557 during the 2015-16 school year.

“The budget remains the same for the 2016-17 school year and includes transportation costs, officiating costs, coaching salaries, supplies, reconditioning and recertification of equipment,” Mooney said 

Katz further addressed the issue in the letter by saying that the school prioritizes athletic programs over educational programs. 

“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 semi-finalist for the 2015 competition,” Katz said in the letter.

Katz also compared the Port Washington district to the Great Neck, Herricks and Manhasset districts, which he said each produced eight finalists in the math, science and technology categories.

Mooney said that although the district didn’t have a finalist last year, “we did have two semifinalists in 2014, which is a remarkable feat.” She added that last year the district had two Intel semifinalists.

“The Port Washington School District has always educated the whole child and supports athletics as well as the arts,” Mooney said in her  letter. 

Dave Sattinger, a parent of a Schreiber student who plays baseball, said that with regard to Port Washington football, there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis, “because if one program is cut, there’s always the chance that other ones can be cut, too.”

 Scaling back on sports programs could possibly affect other programs that are essential components to a child’s education, he added.

“I believe that sports are beneficial to kids,” Sattinger said. “They’ve been tremendously beneficial to my son, Jackson. It teaches kids a lot about life. It teaches them competition, work ethic and it’s an important part of a well-rounded education.”

Sattinger said that he has been a football fan his entire life, but finds it to be harder to watch football today, because of the constant head injuries players suffer.

“I wouldn’t let my kid play football,” Sattinger said.

It’s not a simple process, Sattinger said, because sports and arts offer a lot of opportunities for children. But it is getting to a point where something needs to change, he added.

“I believe we’re going to see a change, not just in our district, but around the country,” Sattinger said. “It’ll start with less kids trying out for football, because of more public awareness, and then with the increased head injuries, insurance costs will rise. Then, more parents will become concerned, which will cause football programs to lose more kids.”

Sattinger said that as an alternative he thinks that one day we’ll see a flag football conference to eliminate the hitting completely.

In Mooney’s letter, she noted that everyone has the right to express their own opinion, but she said it is her “responsibility to correct any misrepresentation or misinformation.”

By Stephen Romano
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