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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Superintendent's Message to Employees on Turf


To: District Three Employees

As most of you know, there has been a controversy about the board's decision to approve artificial turf for the District Three Stadium. I'm always concerned when members of the community disagree with the decisions made by the board, but I'm especially concerned when our employees express their doubts. I am, therefore, providing you with the following information with the hope that you will be better informed as to why the decision was made. It's truly important to me that district employees are knowledgeable about the decisions made by the school board or by the district administration.

A question presented to the Board of Trustees on September 24, 2007, was not, “If you had $750,000 in surplus money to spend, what would be your priority?”  The question was, “Can we save our taxpayers' money by installing artificial turf in the District Three Stadium?” 

Each year we spend approximately $65,000 maintaining natural grass in the District Three Stadium.  Although our maintenance staff does an outstanding job of maintaining the field, it is used three to four nights a week (38 times last year within 3-1/2 months).  Grass cannot hold up to such extensive use without being patched or replaced over a ten-year period at a cost of over $400,000, bringing the 10-year cost of natural grass to an estimated $1,050,000.  It is impossible to keep it maintained at a level anywhere close to artificial turf without spending a great deal more than we currently spend.  By comparison, the 10-year cost for synthetic turf is less than $790,000, or over $250,000 less than we spend to maintain natural grass over the same time period.

We continue to look for ways to be more efficient and effective.  We recommended installing artificial turf as a means of getting “more bang for the buck.”  Although this decision was based purely on economics, there are some additional benefits:

    • Instead of limiting the use of the field, we can expand the use of the facility for students. 
    • We can provide a safer field for our players by providing a consistent surface. Currently, late in the season, the field becomes rutted and during a typical year, the field becomes muddy.
    • We have the possibility to generate new revenue streams by using the field on a year-round basis.
    • It would improve one of our facilities that has been the centerpiece for our athletic community for a number of years.

The term surplus denotes extra money.  This is not extra money; it is simply the difference in what we budgeted and what we actually spent.  It should only be spent on one-time expenses or to increase our fund balance for emergencies.  It simply cannot be used for additional teachers or more academic programs, both of which are recurring costs.

Our school board members want to make the right decision for the people they represent. However, due to limited communication, a decision can be perceived as wrong.  The decision made on September 24 is sound business, but we failed to explain the decision adequately to you and to our community.  We apologize for any frustration or misunderstanding.  We will work harder in the future to provide information earlier in the process.  Please know that we value and appreciate the support of all employees and want to be good stewards of everyone's tax dollars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ms. Moody, you explanation still doesn’t fully explain the benefits and cost associated with artificial turf. And why are you so very concerned about employees voicing an opinion different that your? Are employees not allowed to voice their own opinion without fear? Everyone will not value the same things.

If you wanted to truly inform the community then you need to release detailed information early in the decision making process so that the majority get the information. Most don’t attend board meetings. You also need to site your sources and explain any cost estimates so that any estimates can be independently investigated.

In your numbers, the grass field will cost $65,000 to maintain each year. If I do the math, then turf only cost $4,000 a year to maintain. What happens when the turf needs to be replaced? What is that cost? How often will you need to replace turf? What if someone vandalizes the field? Can it be easy patched like grass fields or is there a big expense for repairs? Since you have historical number for the grass field it is not a good comparison to use estimate cost projects since it is hard to capture unexpected costs for turf. It would be more useful to get historical cost information from other high school stadiums for a 10 year period that to use estimated cost.

As for safety, I haven’t been able to find anything that supports turf being safer than grass. However, I have read much about young football players suffering injuries consistent with those of NFL players who play on turf . “Turf toe” seems to be the most common injury. This innocently sounding injury has the ability to bench players. Once you get it the first time you are more likely to have repeated problems resulting in permanent joint damage.

Now I would like to share some onetime items that could have been used for education. You could buy some extra lab supplies since some schools don’t have adequate supplies in the current year. The funds could be used to buy additional visual support items to reach children that are not audible learners. You could purchase computers and software upgrades for use in classrooms. A couple of schools cried out for library books. Any one of these area would benefit from some extra onetime funds. I know this decision has had a negative impact on teachers who work hard but lack support to buy some of the onetime items that they need.

I don’t agree with your decision, but it is done and I will continue to support the district and teachers.

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