THE ISSUE: The Brownwood school board unanimously approved the purchase of a new scoreboard for Gordon Wood stadium that will cost nearly $500,000.
THE IMPACT: The school district has received mixed reviews on social medial following the announcement, with some believing athletics receives more consideration than athletics. Brownwood ISD superintendent Dr. Joe Young and school board president Michael Cloy discussed academics and extracurricular activities with the Bulletin.
Brownwood school board president Michael Cloy makes no apologies for being a fan of Brownwood Lions football and other athletic programs.
“Football is huge,” Cloy said.
Cloy’s son, Carson, a 2016 graduate of Brownwood High School, played sports including football; daughter Caitlyn, a 2011 graduate; was a cheerleader; and daughter Caroline, a Brownwood High School sophomore, is involved in cheerleading and sports.
But athletics is not Job One in the Brownwood school district, Cloy said.
“Academics is number one,” Cloy said. “That’s what they’re in school for. Extracurricular activities are number two.”
The Bulletin spoke with Cloy and the school district’s superintendent, Dr. Joe Young, following the school board’s decision last week to spend nearly $500,000 for a new scoreboard at Gordon Wood Stadium. The scoreboard, from South Dakota-based Daktronics, will include a video display, three cameras and sound system and will replace the existing 22-year-old scoreboard, which is failing, Young and Cloy said.
The new scoreboard will be just over 36 feet high and 36 feet wide, and the video display will be just over 18 feet high and 33 feet wide. It is expected to last at least 10 years.
The decision drew criticism on social media as posters said the district had its priorities wrong. The district should spend that money on areas including academics, teachers salaries and improving buildings, critics said. Some suggested the money could be better spent feeding the hungry.
‘Well rounded education’
In wide ranging interviews, Cloy and Young talked about the district’s priorities and the Texas-wide football-versus-academics debate. No programs or priorities are being sacrificed because of the scoreboard expense, both men said. Teachers got raises last year and they’re getting raises this year, Cloy said.
“I think my children got an extremely well rounded education,” Cloy said.
Caitlyn was salutatorian of the class of 2011, Carson was strong academically and Caroline is also ranked highly in academics, Cloy said.
The district has spent money in past years in other areas including technology and new school buses, Cloy said.
Football and academics: not ‘either-or’
Football “definitely doesn’t trump what we do in the classroom,” Young said. “I think that too many people make it an either-or concept, when in actuality, they both can exist.
“They both benefit kids in different ways. I think they can co-exist.”
Young acknowledged that $500,000 – the approximate cost of the new scoreboard — is a lot of money. But looking at the district’s approximately $26 million budget shows “we do a lot of good things for our kids in the Brownwood ISD,” Young said.
“Twenty million of that is spent directly on classroom instruction — which is Function 11 on our budget code — and then if you add in library services, counseling services, those types of things, the number goes higher.
“And so we have our priorities right in the Brownwood ISD. Our kids are first.”
Technology, infrastructure and academics
Young noted the district’s expenses in technology upgrades and the One-to-One program that gives laptops to freshmen.
Young noted plans to invest in infrastructure including redoing parking lots at Northwest and Coggin elementary schools and installing air conditioning and new windows in the Coggin Elementary School auditorium.
Young also noted the OnRamps dual credit program that will be offered at Brownwood High School through the University of Texas beginning next year. There will be no cost to students or their parents to take dual credit through the program, Young said.
“These are programs that we didn’t previously have,” Young said. “These are infrastructure updates. We just spent $500,000 on buses earlier this year.
“I think when you see our commitment to these programs … when you talk about our (Gifted and Talented) program that we revamped or our RTI (Response to Intervention) program which we revamped … with our new instructional programs that we’re putting at the high school, with our new EMT certification, with our certified nurses aide, with our pharmacy tech …”
Young said he could go “on and on” about the nearly $22 million — out of the $26 million budget — that “trumps the 2 percent of the budget that we spend on football, and not just football, but all athletics.”
Recouping the cost
Young was nowhere around in 2006 when the district installed a 16-foot-by-12-foot video screen at Gordon Wood Stadium, thanks to $200,000 or more raised by the private group Alumni Business Community Club.
While Young wasn’t here at the time, he’s read up on the video screen, which was supposed to have provided advertising and sponsorship for 10 years. The screen lasted five years, Young said.
Young said he hopes the district will recoup the cost of the new scoreboard through sponsors and advertising — but because the previous video screen lasted half of its expected life, Young said, he’s unwilling to ask sponsors to donate money up front.
“We took $220,000 in commitments from people for a 10-year period,” Young said “We only kept the thing up there for five years. I never saw it, but what I do know is that I want the Brownwood ISD to be an organization that keeps its word. I know for a fact that we took $220,000 from people in this community and said ‘for 10 years, you will sponsor this video board.’
“We didn’t do that. We only gave them five years. And so as the leader of the organization, it was hard for me to justify going back to those same people who had given $220,000 and didn’t get what they were promised, and say ‘will you do that again up front?’”
The scoreboard will be paid from the existing fund balance of $5.2 million, Young said, and the cost will not impact this year’s or next year’s budget.
Young said once the district has the scoreboard and has paid for it out of the fund balance, the district can then tell sponsors “here’s what we have to offer you. Would you like to be a part?’”
The district will set up a separate fund “so we can keep track of the advertising or the sponsorships that come in,” Young said.
“People will be against (the scoreboard), people will be for it. I just want it to be clear what we’re doing.”