The Peabody Public Schools will be getting a brand new scoreboard, thanks to a generous parent at the McCarthy School who won it from a radio station, the only question is which school will actually get to use it.
Last week, the School Committee considered spending $11,000 from the high school’s Athletic Revolving Fund in order to accept the gift, which is valued at $5,000, from Nancy Krause. Initially, the intent was that Peabody Veterans Memorial High School would be able to replace its aging outdoor scoreboard on the football field.
Interim Superintendent Herb Levine explained that normally it would cost $17,000-$20,000 to replace the existing scoreboard, but now was the time to take advantage of the gift and kick in the remaining amount. The additional funds would go towards the installation of the new scoreboard and removing the 40-year-old one.
School Committee members, grateful for the donation, hesitated at approving the spending request. At issue were three main concerns: the best use of the scoreboard, spending on equipment while fees dig into parents' pockets and jobs have been cut, and the cost versus the benefits of accepting a scoreboard that had advertising commitments already guaranteed to advertisers.
School Committee member Beverley Dunne bit her tongue several times but managed to voice her concerns that other schools, particularly elementary ones, could potentially use a scoreboard indoors in their gymnasiums.
“We agonize over charging people to participate in athletics and I am angry that we can use the revolving funds for a scoreboard,” said Dunne, frustrated, but quickly added that she supported the long-term investment.
“Are we getting our bang for the buck for allowing advertisers to advertise?” asked committee Vice-Chair Ed Charest. Charest had concerns with whether or not the School Committee should spend the money to install the new scoreboard when the advertisers, over a 20-year period, could reap greater benefits than the school.
“We are giving them a hell of a lot more than what we’re getting,” Charest said.
Several times in between the committee members voicing their concerns, Levine offered a compromise motion that would allow for the approval of first accepting the gift and then later reviewing where the scoreboard was needed the most, but members continued to voice their frustrations for almost an hour.
“I will do whatever the School Committee deems appropriate,” said Levine.
Committee member Brandi Carpenter wanted to know just how much was in the revolving account.
School Business Manager Dave Keniston reported there was over $200,000 in the account based on a year-to-year accumulation, supplemented with user fee and gate receipt earnings. He said $165,000 was offset in the budget for coaches, materials, supplies, equipment and on occasion athletic transportation when times were “tight.”
Charest made a motion, accepting Levine's compromise, to receive the gift and determine if it would be best used at an elementary school. But if there wasn't a need after all, the committee would reconvene in two weeks to approve the funds to install the scoreboard at the high school stadium.
School Committee member David McGeney, seconded that motion, but not until he had lectured his colleagues about being gracious to accept the gift for what it was.
“With all due respect to the Superintendent, we have a certain responsibility as a School Committee,” said Jarrod Hochman referring to taking enough time to review all the pertinent cost-related facts before appropriating funds.
“We are faced right now with the story about Solomon and dividing the baby,” said Mayor Michael Bonfanti, who also sits as the committee chairman, as the discussion stretched for more than an hour on the same topic.
Bonfanti urged committee members to give Levine some flexibility. There was a sigh of relief heard from a member of the audience.
Ultimately, the committee did agree to Charest's motion and will revisit the topic on Oct. 11.
Phil Sheridan, the district director of health, physical education and athletics, said the opportunity to replace the existing scoreboard at the high school stadium was more cost-effective than continuing to repair it. He said parts are no longer made for the equipment, which was installed at the stadium in the early 1970s.