LUMBERTON — The former wrestling coach at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke asked the Public Schools of Robeson County school board Tuesday to reconsider any proposed funding cuts that would force the elimination of wrestling programs at two high schools.
“Sports, such as wrestling, are unique,” P.J. Smith told the board. “Wrestling is unique in that it provides students from 106 pounds to 285 pounds a sport they can participate in. It provides a sport for those with special needs, or those who may not be the best athletes.”
The programs at South Robeson and St. Pauls high schools are scheduled to be shut down for the upcoming school year because of a shortage of money. A wrestling program at Red Springs was cut last year.
While several people attended Tuesday’s board meeting in a show of support for wrestling, Smith was the only one to address board members.
After the meeting, Denise McKoy, whose son Tyrone McKoy Jr. will be a senior at South Robeson High School, expressed her concern that the elimination of the school’s wrestling program could hurt her son’s chance of winning a scholarship. McKoy finished fourth in the state for 1A schools in the 160-pound weight class and has been approached by college recruiters, according to his mother and his coach at South Robeson, Aaron Johnson.
“To continue wrestling his senior year Tyrone would have to transfer to another school,” Johnson said. “If he doesn’t wrestle his senior year, what happens would depend on whether the college recruiters continue to want him based on his performance this year.”
Johnson said that there has been wrestling at South Robeson for two years. During the past season his team included nine members, just five short of a full team of 14. All nine qualified for the regional competition, and several came close to qualifying for state, he said.
Matthew Anglin, the wrestling coach at St. Pauls High, said that of the 23 members of his team, 13 qualified for regional competition during the past year.
The principal at St. Pauls, Hoyt McCormick, has agreed to keep the program for the next school year if supporters can raise $3,000 privately by July 1.
According to Anglin, the high school’s wrestling program budget ran about $7,000 during the past season. He said some of the money needed to run the program was raised by team members.
Johnson estimated that his program can manage on less than $3,000 for travel and expenses for a single season.
Johnson and Anglin said they are working together to find ways to reduce the cost of their wrestling programs.
In other business, the board on Tuesday heard a brief report from Erica Setzer, the school district’s finance officer, on the governor’s proposed state education budget.
Setzer said that the governor’s statewide budget calls for: 1,800 more state-funded teachers over the next two years; expanding pre-kindergarten slots by 5,000; providing $28 million over two years to improve third-grade reading scores; decreasing teacher assistants in the third and fourth grades; and taking $77 million from the state lottery to be used for technology repairs and upgrades. The governor’s budget also calls for a 1 percent pay raise for school employees.
Johnny Hunt, the school district’s superintendent, said after the meeting that he has some concerns about the governor’s proposals.
“Over the past five years we have been cut $32 million,” he said.
Hunt said that he is concerned about the reversion of allotted funds back to the state. The reversion of funds this year was $5.7 million, he said.
In other business, the board:
— Recognized several local schools for achievements in the N.C. Positive Behavior Intervention Support Initiative.
— Heard a report on plans for the district’s Teacher Job Fair to be held at Lumberton High School on April 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— Was updated on plans for Project Graduation, to be held on June 14. The annual Project Graduation Gala, a fundraiser for the June event, will be from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at the Southeastern Agricultural Events Center in Lumberton.