Ennis School Board agrees to trial softball program
Softball is officially a go after the Ennis School Board voted to allow a program on a two-year trial basis. After several motions and amended motions, the board voted to allow a softball program, contingent on raising $30,000 in startup costs by June 30, with a program evaluation after each season.
Kelley Knack and Jamie Lovett have pushed for the program, after discovering a need through their summer recreation league. Knack and Lovett approached the board late last year and were asked to return with startup costs, potential interest and letters of intent. During the Feb. 14 meeting, Knack presented the board with nearly $46,000 in commitment letters of donations and in-kind labor. “We live in a very giving community and I think we can raise even more,” said Knack.
Board member Julie Funston questioned the impending budget cuts and the program’s sustainability. “It’s incredible the amount of support from the community, but are we going to be able to sustain the program with our budget cuts?”
The initial startup cost for a softball program is around $30,000, with annual costs at approximately $20,000. Montana High School Association allows for a one-time fundraising event specific to one program, but all fundraising events thereafter must be split equally between programs.
Ennis Schools Superintendent Casey Klasna said his concerns were the financial ability to keep the program running. “I think it’s doable, but with the potential budget cuts down the pike, I’m leaning more toward no.” Klasna added with cuts to the transportation and building reserve funds, one of his main concerns is activity drivers. “We’re already looking to shut down one, possibly two, routes,” he said.
Athletic Director Paul Bills echoed Klasna concerns, adding he was worried about the program taking away from other spring activities like FCCLA and Skills USA. “Distance and travel are going to be the biggest downfall of a program,” he said. “But the kids want softball and I think the financial end will get better – it’s not such a hardship anymore.”
Both Knack and Bills said they do not think it will be long before other small schools look to add a softball program.
Not having a “dog in the fight,” board member Chad Coffman said he wanted to do what was right for the school. “I’d hate to take from the community and have the program fail and then later have to go back and ask for a levy,” he said. “It’s about our needs versus our wants.”
Board chair Kris Inman said she felt not going forward would result in a lost opportunity. “Working in the nonprofit world, we make a lot of gambles on an annual basis,” she said. “If we don’t go forward today, I’m afraid it’s a lost opportunity for the future.”
After struggling to find a happy medium on initial costs and a timeline for the program, the board agreed to a two-year trial program, with a starting cost of $30,000 in hand by June 30. The program will be evaluated for participation and financially after every season.
“Finances are always going to be an issue,” said board member Karen Ketchu. “I think it’s more about the opportunity we can provide our kids.”
Klasna said he will have a first draft available and a first reading of the student drug testing policy at the March 14 meeting.