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Posted at 6:21 PM ET, 01/14/2010

A 'timeout' for sports at Fairfax schools

By editors

By Jennifer Delinski

The uproar over Fairfax County public schools cutting freshman sports for one year seems misguided [“Austerity casts pall over schools in Fairfax,” front page, Jan..8]. As an FCPS teacher who will not get a raise (no step or cost-of-living increase) for two years in a row, while taking on more work and students, I find this cut reasonable.

I think the county should consider suspending all sports and after-school activities for a year to see what kind of revenue it can free up to do what schools are supposed to focus on: educating children. I realize that some sports and activities generate their own funds to cover expenses, but they do not cover them all.

According to Superintendent Jack D. Dale, $1.8 million is being saved by just eliminating freshman sports, winter cheerleading and indoor track. Can you imagine the amount of money we would save by eliminating all sports and activities? Not to mention the fact that the people who are being asked to run these activities and sports are the teachers themselves, who are already overworked and underpaid. Many of these after-school activities have little or no pay attached to them. Those that do barely cover the amount of time put into running the programs.

Cutting clubs and sports from the school budget does not mean they have to be canceled. Community members could raise funds, create business partnerships or volunteer to keep such opportunities alive. Additionally, there are many other outlets for kids to be involved in sports and activities.

Suspending such activities in schools for a year will not hurt our communities. But continuing to increase class sizes, to underpay teachers and to cut vital educational programs will.

By editors  | January 14, 2010; 6:21 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Virginia, schools  
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Ms. Delinski suggestion should be taken seriously by the Fairfax School Board. The schools' mission is education. When money is plenty, the athletic program (which, by the way, is not just coaches, uniforms, equipment, field/gym maintenance,etc. but also full time athletic directors, assistant athletic directors and secretarial staff with good salaries and benefits) is terrific. But money is a problem now and cutting high quality educational programs while keeping extravagantly expensive athletic ones which only serve a select few is not in keeping with the goal of providing an excellent education for all the children.

Posted by: twood1525 | January 15, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Nice to see Jennifer Delinski complain about not getting a raise in two years. I wonder how many poor Fairfax county residents would like a MINIUM teachers salary of $44,389 while taking three months off each year off. Not to mention all the cushy health benefits that come along with a government job.

What kind of educator would want to remove after school programs? Delinski should be removed from the class room ASAP for even making the suggestion.

Posted by: JohnJr1 | January 15, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

It's disappointing to me to see a teacher (who should know better) disregard the educational nature of high school athletics. As a Fairfax County grad and former participant in numerous high school sports, I will whole-heartedly attest that in many cases I learned more from sports about life, how to deal with people and how to be a leader than any teacher ever taught in a classroom. And you know what? These are the skills I turn to on a daily basis - not random facts from high school that got me into college but have no bearing on my daily professional career.

In a year when many, many people aren't getting performance-based salary increases, and in a year when cost-of-living actually has gone down, I find it appalling that this selfish, lazy government employee has the gall to want the students' experience to suffer so she can get better pay for doing the same job as last year. To wrap it all in the false guise of "educating the children" is salt in the wound. Gag me with a spoon, and fire this teacher.

Posted by: vtjt | January 15, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer, please give specifics about what more work you're doing this year then past years, Oh, and how many more kids are projected to be in your class? What grade do you teach? You provide no details and expect sympathy. When I went to school we had 1 teacher for 25-30 kids, now teachers have an assistant, small class sizes(15-20) and a lot of support from parents. Yes, I think teachers deserve a raise, but I also don't see cutting out sports and other after school activities as the answer. You know very little about sports and after school activities. Each athlete on my daughters team had a $600 fee, plus we held raffles and sold discount coupons to offset the cost. I doubt you're a math teacher because whatever budget for all sports/after school activities(let's say 20-40 million) divide by every teacher/fairfax school employee(let's say 50,000 fairfax employees) would only work out to $400-800/year. I know my numbers are off. I guess if there were no sports team, then each High school could get rid of their AD. And I don't know how teachers are paid out of the budget vs school non teachers. Of course kids that could afford private school would transfer and parents would push for vouchers with that kind of change, which would mean less students attending fairfax public schools and in the end you'd be left go......

Posted by: larry40 | January 15, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

If the county is truly looking to save money, they should start to think outside the box. Why not go to 4 day school weeks and add 30 min to an hour per day to make up lost time? Or 1 day a week have the kids watch class from home on tv or internet? Just think of all the savings, less busing(save on bus drivers pay, fuel and maintenance on buses), utility usage, 1 less day for lunches and janitorial type work, less traffic/commute.

Posted by: larry40 | January 15, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Delinski neither lives in or pays taxes in Fairfax County. Her views on what FCPS does, or doesn't do, are of no importance. As an employee, she is free to leave county employment at any time. After all, there is, no doubt, a surfeit of English teachers and I am sure that FCPS would have no problem replacing her.

Let her work where she lives, in PW County. She can complain there about the poor salary and the fact that athletics and clubs still exist. Stay out of my yard.

Posted by: mortified469 | January 15, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm both intrigued and annoyed by the responses I see. As a fellow former student in Fairfax, I must humbly request that we not only claim to be products of one of the finest education systems in the country, but that we demonstrate it in how we engage in this discussion. Throwing personal insults around is not what I would say reflects a first class education.

JohnJr1: I might suggest you also read the article from January 8th from which Ms Delinski's opinion originated. The MINIMUM teacher’s salary of $44,389 that you boast about is less than the median income for the United States in 2009 of $52,029 and far less than the median income in Fairfax which is more than double at $111,000. The average home price in 2009: $420,000 or $2300/month at a great rate. That's 62% of a teacher's salary. Additionally, it isn't that teachers get three months off. It's that they get paid for 9 months and elect to spread that pay over 12 months so they can still pay the mortgage in the summer. An educator is called such because their passion is education. Therefore the suggestion being made to focus funds that are already limited on the education side of the equation doesn't seem that unreasonable. Extra-curricular activities should be paid with “extra” funding, which at this time doesn’t seem to exist.

If you're someone who learned more from high school sports than from the teachers in the classroom, I can identify with you. I'm a professed sports addict myself. However, it should also be pointed out that more than likely your sports coach...was a teacher, the field was simply another classroom and they probably coached for only a small stipend. The fact is athleticism absent intelligence or education is a recipe for disaster - just look at Gilbert Arenas. If you know anything about sports in this country, you should know it won't suffer and neither will the students. If the money doesn't come from the county it most certainly will come from somewhere as Ms Delinski has pointed out. There's simply too much money generated in this country from sports to think our youth would ever be denied athletic opportunities.

It's also important to point out that the county is already looking at cutting freshman sports...and not so they can give the teachers a raise. There's just not enough money. Not even in the county Time magazine labeled " of the great economic success stories of our time."

Posted by: drd71 | January 15, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

mortified469: really? "get out of my yard"? Nothing you said addressed the argument being made. You only pointed out two things: 1. That she's free to leave the county as an employee...which I think most people are already aware, and 2. That she doesn't pay taxes in Fairfax County...I am assuming you meant other than out of her paycheck to the state and fed who in turn funnel money back to the county.

I think the point of the piece is not that teachers missed out on a raise for the sake of sports and programs - rather that there is more outrage over cuts in athletics and programs than there has ever been over teacher salaries. We want the teachers to teach, coach and run drama club - we just don't want to pay them for it.

Posted by: drd71 | January 15, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

As the writer of the original story, I would like to clarify a few things. First, teachers are paid only for the days they work, not for summer vacation.
Second, I have always been an athlete myself, and I personally understand the importance of athletics, not to mention other extra-curricular activities like the arts and various clubs. They help define a school culture.
I teach English in the county. I love my job, and I never got into it for the money. Few teachers do. I also never said that I felt this money should be used to increase my pay. Yet, I agree with the person who said that extra-curricular activities are that – extra-curricular. During a time when we are experiencing such a short fall of money, it would seem this would be a consideration. This is how I would handle it in a house budget- when there is no money, I would first consider cutting the extras. Not ideal, but possibly necessary.
As an English teacher, I currently have about 31 students in each of my 5 classes. This number is set to go up next year. I have no teacher’s aide in my classroom, or volunteers for any of my classes, and parent involvement in the classroom is really not expected. I don’t know when I have ever had parent help in the classroom.
I find it interesting that few people discussed my actual argument, because I realize there are many valid opinions on the other side; instead, most people attacked me personally. As an English teacher, I know that is bad form. But mostly, I feel it proves my underlying point: that we show very little respect to educators and education in our society. We say that education is important, we say we support teachers, but we aren’t willing to fight to save programs, speak up for smaller classes, or anything else that truly supports fine education. We aren’t willing to put our money where our mouths are. You can identify people’s priorities by looking at the things they are willing to support, the things they are willing to pay for, the things they are willing to put their time into. As an educator, it saddens me that people are more willing to speak up for athletics than for classrooms. As an educator, it saddens me that people would rather chastise a person for having an opinion, than enter a meaningful debate on it. Unfortunately, I am not the least bit surprised.

Jennifer Delinski

Posted by: jld73 | January 15, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the reply but I think you miss the point too. Last year I paid over $13K in property tax(some how my building part went down $20K but my land went up 80K, so my taxes actually went up in a year when the economy tanked). This school year I will pay over $800 in fees for my senior daughter, over half towards her cheer team. There were a lot of people that took advantage of the system and lived beyond their means, so between the poor housing market, unemployment, economy and various other issues, the school system is at a place where it can no longer keep up with the demands of past. If it were me, I'd cut out who's affected the least. After school activity buses...gone(parents can pick them up), cut back support services, and finally add a small tax increase. My other suggestion, which follows more in line with companies and that's having a 4 day school week.

Posted by: larry40 | January 15, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Two other points I failed to mention. This economy will continue like this for at least another 3-5 years, so you have to think long term. Shutting down extra activities for a year, will eventually turn into a second and then a third. The other issue or lack of understanding is thought most coaches signed up to coach, not like anyone holding a gun to their head? In fact I know of several HS coaches that aren't even teachers. And I know that most coaching positions make some money.

Posted by: larry40 | January 15, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"In a year when many, many people aren't getting performance-based salary increases, and in a year when cost-of-living actually has gone down, I find it appalling that this selfish, lazy government employee has the gall to want the students' experience to suffer so she can get better pay for doing the same job as last year. To wrap it all in the false guise of "educating the children" is salt in the wound. Gag me with a spoon, and fire this teacher."

It's a little disheartening to see you attack the character and work habits of someone whom you've neither met nor studied with. This teacher does her job, and well, and is neither selfish, nor lazy. Now, if you'd like to provide a PRODUCTIVE solution to the crisis that the Fairfax County Public Schools are faced with, you may have the floor.

"When I went to school we had 1 teacher for 25-30 kids, now teachers have an assistant, small class sizes(15-20) and a lot of support from parents."

I haven't had a class that small since elementary school, not one TA, and "career day" was the last parent involvement in any of my classes.

Now, for my $.02. Cutting sports seems a shocking thought at first. As a two sport varsity athlete, I can share sentiments with those who've learned many life lessons from sports. I can also understand a crisis calls for groundbreaking moves. The abolition of high school sports would leave a void which would undoubtedly be filled by sports clubs. Two points support this claim: First, there are already high school sports which lead to successful college recruiting from out of school clubs. Common examples include soccer and cheerleading. A friend (who was later given a full ride to UVA women's soccer team) once said to me "You play club soccer if you want to go to college. You play high school soccer if you want people to know you play soccer." Secondly, any Fairfax County high school athlete in the last decade will know that it has the state's most strict regulations with regard to limiting participation.
Football teams can't use pads for the first 2 days, and can't wear full pads until almost a whole week into the season. Wrestling has rules on cutting weight.
Teams can only practice for so many hours per week. And county regulations stipulate sports lose a day of practice to watch concussion and locker room hygiene videos. Yes, these rules have their uses, but put student-athletes in FC at a disadvantage. In my opinion, cutting sports wouldn't be the high school apocalypse as some would like to believe.

Chris Kichinko

P.S. A quote shared with me by a coach: "It's student-athlete, in that order."

Posted by: ckichinko | January 15, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor after reading JohnJr's and vtjt's comments. I am also a Fairfax county alumna, and a former student of Jennifer Delinski's. Teachers such as her have long hours (For example, I remember multiple times in the four years that I was in her classroom that she was still at school well past 5:00 PM, contract time ending at 2:15, to help the school newspaper staff) and a ridiculous amount of students. They are underpaid and overworked. And my experience as a Fairfax County student ended 6 years ago. I can't imagine things have improved.

And seriously, mortified, don't encourage ANY teachers to leave. We need as many great teachers in FCPS as we can get, and let's face it, not all of them are going to live in the county.

While I might not have loved the point she made, as I feel that there are many students who wouldn't have the opportunity to pursue athletics if not through their schools, I feel the ad hominem attacks are ridiculous and entirely undeserved.

Posted by: CNUCatherine | January 16, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm sitting here amazed at all the responses to Ms. Delinski's article. It seems that in this country you are allowed to have an opinion but if someone disagrees with it and it's not the opinion they have than you are attacked. When my kids get old enough to play sports, sports will be second to there education. If they don't do their homework or sports activities. That's the problem in this country, we place too much emphasis on sports in school and not the reason you are there, education. Take for example college football. A recent NCAA report found that a majority of the Florida State football team cannot even read on a 2nd grade level. This is correct because these athletes have not had to lift a finger since 2nd grade because they can play sports. So, if Fairfax County wants to suspend freshman activities they by all means suspend it. Chris Kichinko said it correctly when he stated that "it's student-athlete, in that order".
As far as pay is concerned, it seems that the two things we cherish the most are, our kids education and our safety and we pay those people the least.

Posted by: chrliebrwn | January 16, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

How disappointing that adults are not able to respect another person's opinion. Ms. Delinski did exactly what Superintendent Jack D. Dale encouraged us to do: think outside the box to find solutions to FCPS' huge budget deficit. It seems that every parent or county member is not willing to allow a cut in what they deem "important"-however, realistically there will be cuts and perhaps instead of attacking ideas we should examine each person's contribution to solving the problem. Truthfully, when I first read Ms. Delinski's opinion I didn't know if I agreed. However, after THINKING about her suggestions I must say that cutting extra-curriculars from the budget could be a productive idea. These programs can still exist-with help from the community. What a wonderful way to encourage parents, neighbors, family members and businesses to become active participants in our students' lives. It's already happening-check out how Lake Braddock crew operates.

Lastly, Ms. Delinski was my teacher for four years. To say she was one of the best teachers I ever had would be an understatement. Not only did she teach me how to write, but she taught me to have confidence in myself (a truly invaluable lesson that was mostly taught after school hours). To lose her as a teacher in this school system would be a genuine shame, since she constantly inspires her students to learn and to reach for better. And she inspired me to join the teaching profession and to make a difference. I can think of no better example of her impact in the classroom than that.

Katherine Hooper

Posted by: khoop | January 16, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Delinski,

You have an annual salary, but you do get 3 months off. While you may spend that time getting more education, many teachers work a 2nd job in what I in my 9-5 job would consider a summer off.

But my major issue with your screed was the fact the students should only be focusing on their education. Which makes me hope you are a grade school teacher and didn't stop to consider high school students getting accepted to college. If all they have on their transcript is classes, they'll be left behind for more well rounded students from other school systems.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | January 17, 2010 2:29 AM | Report abuse

To ArlingtonGay: your comment that students who have "only" classwork on their transcripts will be left behind is specious at best. While I have a tiny bit of sympathy for your position, the simple fact is that an earlier poster nailed it: "student first, athlete second." There are numerous other sporting opportunities in communities other than local school systems. Take advantage of them if sports are your major interest.
To sprite977: you are beneath contempt and provide nothing to this dialogue.

Posted by: steves_59 | January 18, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

a gazzillion dollars says the letter writer is overweight!

Posted by: californicationdude | January 18, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

A point of clarification- teachers do not get three months off over the summer. It is about 9 weeks of time for which they are not paid. Many teachers do use this time to take classes to stay current and certified (btw- professional development money and tuition reimbursement is being cut, I believe completely). Many other teachers do work during this time to supplement their income as well. The best work and pay for a college-educated teacher during this time-- summer school, which is also currently on the chopping block.

Posted by: jld73 | January 18, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

I sure hope you're ready to lose that bet, californicationdude.

Posted by: CNUCatherine | January 18, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

I can say for a fact that the articles author drinks wine from boxes and has a filthy sailor mouth.. that said.. she also robs convienience stores and keeps hobos prisoner in her basement.. however.. she is not fat..

Posted by: SMITHISAWESOME | January 19, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Everybody knows gay people don't have kids.. they just steal other peoples children to make them gay..

"Ms. Delinski,
You have an annual salary, but you do get 3 months off. While you may spend that time getting more education, many teachers work a 2nd job in what I in my 9-5 job would consider a summer off.
But my major issue with your screed was the fact the students should only be focusing on their education. Which makes me hope you are a grade school teacher and didn't stop to consider high school students getting accepted to college. If all they have on their transcript is classes, they'll be left behind for more well rounded students from other school systems.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | January 17, 2010 2:29 AM | Report abuse "

Posted by: SMITHISAWESOME | January 19, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

For everyone complaining about the abusive coments and idiots.... welcome to the internets..

Posted by: SMITHISAWESOME | January 19, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

First, the idea that teachers don't deserve a raise unless they are "doing more" this year that last year has no grounding. Many professions get performance pay increases, as well as cost of living increases. They are not always based on "doing more." With that said, teachers actually are doing more. With larger class sizes and positions cut within the school, our work load is increasing while the number of people around to do it is increasing. I'm no math teacher, but I can even put that together. Really, all this argument helped me realize is how misunderstood the teaching profession still is by the general community.

Secondly, any work I may do over the summer would be off-set by the cost of childcare during that time. Most summer jobs do not pay well enough to cover the cost. As someone who is college-educated and very hardworking (not to mention, regularly works over contracted hours during the year), this does not seem to be the best option.

Lastly, yes, many coaches get stipends. And yes, cutting those stipends would mean cutting their pay. But I would bet if most coaches looked at the money they were being paid by the hours they were working, they would realize they could make more money working a part-time, minimum-wage job.

Here is the thing, though. Those very same coaches would do it though. They would argue against such cuts. See, those of us in the teaching industry have joined it because we care deeply about our students and believe completely in the importance of education, in and out of the classroom. Sadly, though, we have been conditioned to expect very little for what we do … and we are praised everytime our pay is cut, our classes increased, and our expectations expanded.
Yes. I love my job.
Yes. I will continue to do it next year even though the situation is bleak.
The fact is, the community is counting on me doing just that, without complaint. Teachers always have.

Posted by: jld73 | January 19, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Woops. I meant work is increasing and people are decreasing ...

Posted by: jld73 | January 19, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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