Stafford Council listens to Catch-22 of Youth Programs
By Karen Daniels
This topic of city sponsorships, or rather, waiving field usage fees, has been on-going for months at the Stafford City Council meetings and the SMSD Board of Trustee meetings. Last year, in an effort to cut costs for the District, the SMSD board—in a vote that barely passed—implemented a mandatory 70% participation rule of Stafford MSD students in the city’s youth programs to avoid paying their usage fees.
Beside their best efforts, the Cobra’s Football and Cheerleading only had 63% participation from the Stafford youth. The following month, Jacqueline Jean-Baptiste, Executive Director of the Fort Bend Youth Football League and a volunteer with the Cobra Football League, approached Stafford City Council asking for their help in paying for those fees. Council passed the vote unanimously, though the board said future discussions were needed on this topic.
Since then, Councilman Cecil Willis has been working and tweaking a proposal for the sponsorship of City youth programs. He has made clear that “if it were up to me, it would be 100% Stafford kids” participating in their football, swimming, and basketball programs. In the new guidelines presented at the last council meeting, the 70% minimum participation requirement was a sticking point for the basketball and football leagues. (Swim team met this goal.) Councilman Willis said, “It is everyone’s responsibility to get more Stafford kids involved.”
The agenda did not list this item as a public hearing, but Council graciously allowed audience members to speak. John Collins, President of SYBA said, that of the “288 kids who signed up last season, approximately 100 were Stafford kids” so they would likely never meet the 70% requirement. Mr. Collins said that kids from neighboring cities come to play basketball for SYBA because “we truly develop the kids at every level of play.” Jeri Thompson, president of the Stafford Stingrays, said she doesn’t “think it’s about the percentage, but about getting kids and parents involved.”
So the question becomes: Why penalize these Stafford youth groups because they’ve developed a spectacular program that draws kids from other areas? This topic was discussed for nearly two hours, and little by little, you could see each of the Council members realize this notion. Mayor Scarcella said, “This has been a revelation” and suggested they “reflect on this.” Councilman Willis said that the next item to work on would be an inter-local agreement between the City of Stafford and SMSD.
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