Remember that scoreboard that was headed for Washburn High School before the resulting imbroglio led to the reassignment of both the principal and the athletic director?
Well, there are still plans to install it, but the job likely won’t happen until after the school’s planned Sept. 13 homecoming game. That would make the second straight homecoming without a permanent scoreboard since the school got a new artificial athletic field last year.
District officials met this week with about 20 school neighbors to preview the board’s design and placement in a meeting that made clear there are larger issues to be resolved to make neighbors happy.
The scoreboard was the least of their concerns. In fact, some seemed happy that the scoreboard will be about 10 feet shorter than the $140,000 version proposed last year before work was halted because the necessary permits hadn’t been pulled. It also will be shifted to the field’s south end.
Instead, neighbors focused on the noise and lights that spill over from an increasing number of events held on the field now that it has turf that can be used more intensively.
“I hear every referee, ever whistle, every sound,” said Washburn alum David Hilden. “Our house glows in the dark, and it’s a block away.” The field lights throw off the sleep patterns of children, he said. He said the money spent on the field should have been devoted to the school itself.
“Make Washburn a good academic school and parents will send their kids there,” he said.
Ryan Fisher, president of the Tangletown Neighborhood Association, said the school and neighborhood need to engage better, but the neighborhood will want some reasonable limits on field use.
There’s been a leadership void at the school, caused by the reassignment of former Principal Carol Markham-Cousins in April, and then the district’s misfire on the hiring of her intended successor, Patrick Exder. He was reassigned last week after four days on the job due to an allegation of test cheating at his former school. Assistant Principal Linda Conley has been put in charge temporarily.
The scoreboard issue blew up last August. A smaller scoreboard that previously served the athletic field was pulled out for installation of the ersatz grass. It stood in the field’s north end zone. The new scoreboard was too big to go in that space, potentially interfering with place kickers and player safety, the district said at the meeting. So the replacement was to go outside the north stadium fence, sitting on columns and standing a total of 37.5 feet tall.
That plan fell apart when neighbors blew the whistle. Angered that two trees planted to screen neighbors from the lights had been cut down for the support columns, neighbors complained to the city, which said the scoreboard did’t have the necessary approvals.
Cousins raised questions about not following the proper process, and when students later heard that Athletic Director Dan Pratt was in danger of losing that post, some of them walked out and later sat in to protest that. Pratt was reassigned back to teaching physical education full time, and left the district for a new administrative post with Rockford schools. Markham-Cousins was reassigned in April after the protests. The school still hasn't named an athletic director, said district official Dave Wicker.
Besides standing shorter, the new scoreboard will lack some of the ad and sponsor features of the original proposal, according to the district. The city wants input from residents on intensity of lighting and hours of operation, zoning administrator Steve Poor told the group.
Markus Lynn-Klimenko, another neighbor, said the new scoreboard was a far better design than the first proposal, but said the neighborhood concerns need to be heeded on an ongoing basis. “We are good neighbors and we’d like to have the school board treat us as good neighbors,” he said.