For the past year, a group of concerned community members has been meeting to devise a plan to address what they felt were shortcomings in recreation programs offered to Charlotte youth and its effect on athletics at the high school level. Monday, April 23, members of the Charlotte Athletic Advisory Group, including representatives from Charlotte Public Schools, stated their case to Charlotte City Council for the reestablishment of a partnership between Charlotte Public Schools and the City of Charlotte.
“We were frustrated and felt we could do better,” said Jim Cicorelli, one of the community members that helped establish the Charlotte Athletic Advisory Group. “We felt we had a vision for what could work and be a success for our community, and primarily success for our kids. In my opinion there is nothing more important in our community than our kids.”
The plan, which has support from the CPS Board of Education, is to establish a recreation coordinator position within the school district. This position would be charged with: Creating a website to house all youth recreation opportunities within the district; expanding and enhancing current recreational programming in the district; creating new programs of interest for local youth; building continuity within local programs allowing for better coordination with varsity-level coaches; and streamlining communications, sign ups, dates and events, among others.
The district reached out to the City of Charlotte first, and will be meeting with Eaton and Carmel townships, to discuss the possibility of shared funding for the position. CPS Superintendent Mark Rosekrans said the school district is willing to commit $15,000 annually for the next three years, and asked the City of Charlotte to make the same commitment toward the creation of the recreation coordinator position. Rosekrans said the Charlotte Athletic Advisory Group will make the same request of Eaton Township and Carmel Township.
“I think the biggest thing is to bring the schools, the city and the townships back together,” said Dan Stafford, Charlotte High School Athletic Director, who has served as a facilitator for the Charlotte Athletic Advisory Group. “We are not big enough where everyone can do their own thing. We have to use resources wisely, and have to use them efficienty, and by having a position that can be a mix of all those parts, I think it can really help Charlotte, and help our youth more importantly.”
Stafford said one of the biggest challenges facing families is not knowing how to connect to recreational opportunities for their children. He said the creation of this position could help that.
“One of the biggest things we’ve heard is that if you’re coming into the district, parents don’t know where to go,” Stafford said. “There could be seven different spots you might have to go to depending on the age and the sport of your student athlete. It is really hard to get connected to the opportunities available in our community.”
Stafford said streamlining youth recreation in the community could also help make them more efficient, and more affordable to families.
Councilman Brad Johnston and Mayor Tim Lewis both spoke in favor of reestablishing the partnership between the city and school district to fund recreation, which existed in Charlotte until 2007-08. Lewis said the council will likely make a decision regarding the school district’s request by its May 14 meeting.