Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
AITKIN -- Pride in sports and pride in children. Together there is not a stronger source of passion, emotion and frustration.
That's why at the Aug. 25 Aitkin School Board meeting a group of parents requested a committee be formed to discuss suggestions and develop recommendations to improve Gobbler athletics.
The committee will offer those recommendations to the board to review. If the board deems any recommendation worthy, it may act on it.
"A group of parents basically wanted to do some things to enhance the programs for our students," said Aitkin superintendent Ed Anderson. "They asked to be on the school board agenda. When it was all said and done the committee was formed.
"It's not really a board activity. It's a special interest group. They were told by the board to go ahead and take a look at the programs and now we'll hear from them on a regular basis."
The committee has no monetary backing or funds.
"What the committee has done is created a lot of tension among coaches here. I don't think people realize that we don't have tons of people lining up wanting to coach. This isn't making things any easier."
Aitkin head wrestling coach
On the sports committee are school board members Paul Just and Dennis Hasskamp; activities director Jack Gilbertson; two coaches, Kathy Christie and Scott Miller; and community members Shane Chaput, Kevin Hoge and Terri Mehr.
"It looks kind of funny to have school board members on the committee, but if these recommendations are going to be brought to the school board we can make sure they are valid ones so we're not wasting anyone's time," said Just. "We can say, 'This makes sense' or, 'We don't have the dollars to do that.' This is not a committee that's going to go its own way and cause some consternation in the community."
The coaching staff's initial reaction was that this group was looking to fire coaches.
"The committee stated their goals are to do what they can to make extracurricular activities a positive and successful venture for everyone involved," Anderson said.
One program in question is girls' basketball. Some parents who requested the committee were part of a basketball booster club, said Anderson.
"I did go to that meeting and of course the first thing is to get real defensive about it and I guess that was my reaction," said Aitkin girls' basketball coach Jen Waldorf. "If I keep an open mind to it maybe it can be a positive.
"Parents are trying to help. These things are a little different than when I used to play and parents wanted to stay as far away from things. It's just a sign of the times."
The committee created a mission statement at its third meeting. It reads:
"The proposed goal of the group is to support successful athletic programs in Aitkin through possible community education expansion, policy review and student and community involvement."
"It took a long time to get to that point," said Gilbertson, who has been skeptical of the committee.
"After the third meeting we have ironed out some things," Gilbertson added. "I would say all the school representation, the coaches and myself started off very skeptical. This is not something we asked for."
Hasskamp said the first few meetings involved a lot of "finger pointing and beating around the bush." The committee has met four times.
"I think it's going to get better," said Hasskamp. "I think it will be more positive than what I thought it was going to be. We've had some discussion about some things we can hopefully try."
Gilbertson is hopeful the committee can provide positive recommendations to the school board. He cited a lack of gym space for practice. Currently the school district uses a church for practice.
"The weight room has come up as a real issue," said Gilbertson. "We have gained a lot of equipment, but it's not in a good location. The room has been mostly manned by volunteers and usually they are coaches who are volunteering. If they are in the midst of their season that's hard to do both because they are using their time to improve their own teams."
No recommendations were made at the Oct. 18 school board meeting.
"I'm sort of hoping something good comes of all this," said Hasskamp. "I would like to see something happen."
Hasskamp added he doesn't agree with many suggestions that have been brought up so far at the meetings, but believes the committee is headed in the right direction.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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