Athletic programs in the Davenport Community School District have had varied success over the years and now the Davenport School Board is considering ideas to improve them.

The topic of athletics was part of the board's committee-of-the-whole meeting on Tuesday in Davenport. No action was taken, but the board heard ideas from officials, including Rob Scott, associate superintendent.

Superintendent Art Tate said while he is concerned about the district's budget and related issues, he realizes athletics are part of the district's prestige, and is a reason why parents choose to move their children to other schools as part of the open enrollment program.

"We do have to cut $6 million from the district's budget next year," Tate said.

Last year, Davenport made the athletic director's position half-time for the first time in years. This half-time position is an adjustment for all administrators, Scott said.

While Scott said most ideas to improve athletics in Davenport cost money, he focused on what's currently happening in the wrestling program.

Wrestling, he said, has shown the value of strong feeder programs between the intermediate schools and high schools. Three intermediate schools this year send  wrestlers directly to Central, North and West for practice.

"That's been a huge success," Scott said.

During discussion, the idea of strong feeder programs between high schools and intermediate schools appeared to be the top priority for the school board.

Ways to enlarge the connection to other sports will be explored. As Scott said, wrestling has relatively low participation numbers, and the students are wrestling in special wrestling areas at each high school. 

But as school board member Bruce Potts said, other sports, like volleyball, have huge numbers of players involved. Potts, former principal at Sudlow Intermediate School, said up to 70 girls will go out for volleyball, and they, in turn, go to high school, normally at Central or North.

It would be "pandemonium," he said, if the younger girls were transported to high school gyms.

Yet, the whole idea of students knowing where they will go to high school would help in player development. This pipeline between intermediate and high schools is a reality in the Bettendorf, North Scott and Pleasant Valley districts.

Tate said he hears suggestions of closing one high school to improve athletics in the otherst, but board members resisted any move in that direction.

Instead, they listened with interest to Brandon Krusey, North High head football coach and a teacher.

It is frustrating to speak to younger students about football, Krusey said, when they haven't yet decided what high school to attend. "It's a big problem in consistent programming," he said, noting that with coordination, the high school football programs could be replicated on the intermediate school level.

There's no accountability at this time, Krusey said, which makes it especially tough to establish team concepts at lower levels.

"We need our elementary and junior high kids to know who they will play for. That's what North Scott, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley do. But our kids just don't know," Krusey said.

He endorsed the idea of strong connections between high school and junior high programs, and he also supports strong school boundary line enforcement in the district.

That might be more feasible in a perfect world, board member Clyde Mayfield said. Mayfield, who has coached youth sports for years, said open enrollment works at the high school level for many reasons, including that families save money, up to thousands of dollars, when their children are in North's dual-credit program, a partnership with Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.

"Sports-wise, it would be great if all the studs went to one high school. But there's no easy answer," Mayfield said.

In the end, the board agreed to discuss the issue again, next time with athletic directors from the three high schools who will be invited to attend the session.

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