MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Queen City’s public elementary schools will have basketball teams once again this winter.
On Monday night, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) approved the option recommended by the Manchester School District Athletic Department, one of three options provided to provide elementary school basketball this season.
The approved option puts games on Saturdays at the city’s middle school gyms with practices at each elementary school during the week and a $2,000 to $3,000 stipend for an athletic coordinator to assist Manchester School District Athletic Director Christine Pariseau-Telge.
Another option would keep games on Saturdays, but replace the athletic coordinator with a third-party contractor that would provide recreational teams for any players that were cut and a 14-person van to help some of the teams at the city’s 13 schools with transportation. A third option would put games on Mondays with games at the elementary schools themselves, with the athletic coordinator instead of the third party.
Telge told the BOSC that none of the options were perfect. In materials presented to the board, the fact that the games would be played within the elementary schools themselves in the Monday option could potentially help foster school spirit and also help families that are unable to attend weeknight games. However, the Monday option would also make it harder to attract qualified referees, who are often officiating middle school and high school games during the week. Other obstacles to the Monday option included additional Manchester Transit Authority assistance available to players in need of transportation assistance on Monday as well as the fact that the elementary schools do not have regulation-sized courts and the middle schools can allow more spectators.
BOSC At-Large Member Jim O’Connell initially expressed support for the Monday option, stating that players should be able to play within their own schools. However, this option did not find much support from other members of the board and a motion by O’Connell to go with that option failed on a voice vote, but not unanimously. A request for a roll call was denied by Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.
Craig did not express explicit support for any of the options, but did note that the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department offers drop-in basketball clinics and shoot-arounds on Saturdays and an organized league could conflict with those efforts.
Ward 10 BOSC Member Gary Hamer believed that the third-party option might be a good bridge option for now as the city gets back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, as last year also had a third-party contractor organizing elementary school basketball in the city and the 2020-’21 year had no season at all due to the pandemic.
Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want expressed support for the third-party option due to its ability to offer recreational teams and the van, also citing support from the city’s 13 elementary school principals. However, Craig noted that the principals may not be aware of the stipend for the athletic coordinator in the non-third party Saturday option. Want also expressed concern that the middle school that would be used on the east side of the city would be McLaughlin Middle School, causing transportation issues for families in some parts of the city although Telge said that site could be moved to Southside Middle School if needed.
Ward 9 BOSC Member Ben Dion asked how difficult it would be to hire a part-time athletic coordinator given the fact that the district has had hiring difficulties with other key positions such as paraprofessional educators and nurses. Telge told Dion she would do her best and no matter what plan was chosen, she would make it work.
Ward 7 BOSC Member asked about transportation concerns on the in-house option, with Telge replying that coaches have helped players in need of transportation assistance in the past, with busses given to some schools’ teams in the past as needed.
After the Monday option failed, O’Connell expressed his support for seeking the athletic coordinator route, believing that Telge needs more assistance in any case and it did not make sense that the district would be unable to run elementary school basketball internally given its size.
Ward 1 BOSC Member Julie Turner and Ward 5 BOSC Member Jason Bonilla spoke in favor of the in-house option.
The in-house option passed on a voice vote, but not unanimously. No roll call was requested.
Monday night’s proposal was the first step in a larger plan to improve the district’s overall athletic programs that is expected to be presented some time in November.
Ward 6 BOSC Member Ken Tassey Jr. and Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley were absent and Ward 12 BOSC Member Carlos Gonzalez was in attendance earlier in the meeting, but not during the final vote.
During new business, O’Connell noted that Monday’s meeting took place on Rosh Hashanah and was unfair to Jewish BOSC members that could not be in attendance, although he did not specify any members by name.
Craig asked BOSC Clerk Angela Carey to notify the board of any religious holidays that may occur during the evenings of future meetings.
Disclosure: The author of this story is a certified youth basketball referee in the state of New Hampshire.