Monday, May 3, 2010

Hannibal High School battles to keep its athletic teams

With New York state forced to make cuts because of a budget deficit, Hannibal High School is battling with the Hannibal Board of Education to keep its athletic teams. The school is located in Hannibal, NY which is about 45 minutes northwest of Syracuse. The school has about 650 students, and about half of them particpate in a sport.
Junior Zack Welling plays on the school's football and basketball teams. As he dribbles a basketball in the school's empty gymnasium and looks up at the banners hanging on the walls, he says he's hoping he'll have a chance to play in front of packed crowds next season.

“I’d be crushed," said Welling. "I’d be devastated. It’s basically my life. Sports are. If we’re not doing it during the season, we’re training in the offseason, and we are just doing anything we can do to get better.”
The board of education needs to lessen a budget gap of more than $200,000. The school lost some junior varsity teams in 2005, but got them back after the booster club raised around $79,000. However, Hannibal never lost any varsity teams.

Principal Brian Schmitt says cutting athletics would create a lot of negatives.

“We would have less opportunities for our kids to be involved," says Schmitt. "Probably we would have a significant decrease in attendance. A significant decrease in the grades our students are receiving. I would say our disciplinary will rise up as well as probably the crime in the community.”

Junior Kate Sullivan is a top student and a starter on the varsity soccer, volleyball, and softball teams. She said sports helps refresh her mind after long and stressful days of school.

“The reason why I’m an honors student, and the reason why I stay in my classes and go to school is because of sports," says Sullivan. "If I didn’t have sports I probably wouldn’t do half of my homework that I do.”

Schmitt says sports helps students learn a lot of valuable lessons that help them later in life.

“It gives them something to look forward to, to focus on," says Schmitt. "It teaches discipline. It teaches self-reliance. It also teaches teamwork. And again, the biggest piece is it’s an incentive for what they go to school for other than their academics.”

This whole situation has helped the student body come together to fight for their beliefs. Zach Welling, Kate Sullivan, and Nancy Perry’s son Brian formed a group called “Save Our Schools”. Around 585 of the school’s 650 students are in the club. The group had a silent day a few months ago where they did not talk or participate in classes.

“This whole time I’ve been working here, I’ve never seen students come together as one and actually carry something out like this," said Welling.

The group has also sent letters to Assemblyman Bob Oaks, Senator Darrel Aubertine, and Governor David Patterson. Save Our Schools also participated in a trash pickup in Hannibal to show it cares about the community.

The school received good news at the budget meeting April 21st. The board included sports in the budget and set it at 25 and a half million dollars. It also has a 2.99 percent tax levy, which is the amount the district has to raise through property, housing, and business taxes. Now the residents just need to approve the budget May 18th. Hannibal football coach John Manion says he doesn't want his players to tell people to vote "yes" for the budget, but he's giving them some different advice.

“I’m telling the kids that now is your final push," says Manion. "This is when you need to get out there and don’t try to tell people to vote yes, but tell them they need to vote.”

The slogan of the Hannibal Warriors is "Purple Pride Never Dies". The banner hangs in the school's gymnasium, and the students made signs with their school's alma mater on it for their silent day in March.

Come May 18th, Zack Welling, Kate Sullivan, and the rest of the students at Hannibal High School just want to make sure their “Purple Pride never dies.”

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