School consolidation, bad for education and finances.

    I live in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  We have had 3 high schools in our area since at least the 1930s.  There were many more,  but they were consolidated into 3 schools.  E. L.  Meyers High School,  Coughlin High School and G.A.R. High School.  Meyers and GAR are 7-12 and Coughlin is 9-12. The graduating class in 2015 from Coughlin was 259, Meyers about 150 and GAR about 150. All the schools in our area are not meeting the grade testing wise.  Meyers and Coughlin have issues with the buildings that change day to day. Our school board recently decided to infuriating the public,  ignore the public and subvert the public by deciding to build one school.

       The board decided to consolidate Meyers and Coughlin into one school.  They had a choice of 2 locations.  1 was Meyers,  7.7 acres,  neighborhood school,  most of the school walked already and it wasn’t in a central location to create traffic problems.  2 was Coughlin,  2.4 acres,  downtown,  traffic problems,  crime and drug problems,  now have to bus both schools and the property with the higher value to sell.  The board said no more property would be bought but are already proposing to buy more. Yes,  they chose number 2. Then decided to add on to an existing school to put 7th and 8th graders in there.  They are building over the city pool.  The project is estimated to cost $100 million.  They company that did the feasibility study received the job with no bid.  Yes,  a $100 million job,  no bid,  to the first company.  When the people asked for this to be put on the referendum,  the board voted 5-4,  against the referendum.  A classless display of egotism.

           Why do I not want a consolidated school? There are several reasons.  First and foremost is the children. Consolidated schools,  with over 1000 students have been shown not to work.  Test scores are lower,  attendance drops,  less participation is school activities,  loss of the intimate parent teacher relationship and kids falling through the cracks. The housing prices next to this newly empty school will plummet 10 to 20%.  A pillar in that community will be gone,  the building will be left to fester like so many other empty schools across the United States and a place that had a large community involvement leaves a hole which was once filled.  Another issue with consolidation.  Lower income kids do not get the same level of education they get in smaller neighborhood schools.  In effect,  classism reigns supreme again. 

    Sadly our school board did not take any of these things into account.  In about a year they went about their study.  When informed that Governor Tom Wolf intended to put a moratorium into effect on Plancon,  the state school funding project,  our board rushed to a decision.  They presented the plan Monday and voted on it Wednesday.  That seem well thought out to you? When the board spoke,  all they talked about was money.  Education was not mentioned once.  They believe bussing more kids will save money,  haha.  They believe eliminating 32 positions will save $3.1 million a year,  haha.  They said only 50% of landowners in the city pay taxes.  I say look at how happy Utah is.  They consolidated and didn’t save any money.  In fact it cost more.

      The board cited soil condition under Meyers as a reason for building at Coughlin.  Yet they plan on adding to a school that  is about 500 yards away.  They claim that they are concerned with safety at Meyers,  yet  had a graduation ceremony there.  They want to make that building into a sports complex.  How is that safe? The football stadium that 4 schools use is there.  They still plan on using it.  How us that safe? Something seems a bit off.

         I have an idea.  I don’t know if it is the right or best idea but it is better then this mess.  Experts say 1000 kids or less is the optimum amount for our kids to learn and test well. Built a new,  smaller Meyers that meets all qualifications.  Build a new Coughlin on the site where the middle and elementary school is,  no more land purchases,  build it to accommodate the population. This way we have 3 campus style high schools.  All very close to 1 of the 5 elementary schools locally. Experts agree that this model is best.They also agree 7-12 is the best model. Why is money coming before our kids? Pennsylvanian ranks 49th in the country in state funding for education. It also has a horrible system for who gets money.  Wealthier districts seem to receive more. These are things Governor Wolf is trying to fix.  Let him fix it.  Let our kids not have to pay off a monstrosity that we will be trying to change in 15 years.  Listen to the people.

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A non-profit youth sports organization targeting underprivileged youth. Great idea. But can I do it?

        I live in a Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It is a lower income city, in the northeastern  part of the state. We are about 15 minutes from Scranton and about 90 minutes from Philadelphia. At one point it used to be a nice place to live but over the years it has become crime ridden. In fact it is number 18 on the list of top murder cities, did I say that right. Everyday the drug use and crime seems to sucking up another kid and spit them out. There isn’t an inexpensive   place for a kid to play and learn fundamentals in a sport. The cheapest  basketball is $50 bucks at the CYC, a place where the refs told me if they called every foul there would be no score. This is an instructional  league. Any type of travel team or AAU  team gets very expensive. Many of the kids around here are unable to play because of their financial  situation. You would think the YMCA or CYC or someone  would offer a spring program or summer program at an affordable  price. They do not. Nor does the city. I wrote my Congressman Matt Cartwright  several days ago asking him for some direction  and he never responded. Who is there for these kids?

         I want to start a non-profit  youth sports organization  for underprivileged  children. I want to concentrate  on 2 sports, basketball and soccer. Those are the 2 sports you need the least amount of equipment for. Less money for families to spend. I want to offer these kids an option other then drugs, drinking, fighting, gangs or whatever else they may get into. I want to offer a kid the same opportunity  a wealthy kid gas, why punish a child for a parents station in life. I see so many incredible athletes who lack the fundamentals of their sport. For basketball at the CYC, you get 1 hour of practice a week. You get the privilege of playing school teams who practice quite a bit more. Many kids spirits are crushed because of this. A kid who I’d fundamentally sound can compete with less talent, causing that kid to carry better grades, stay out of trouble and stick with their commitment. I don’t think we should be getting wealthy off of kids playing sports, AAU and travel soccer teams. Why aren’t the kids coming first?

          I want to be able to defer cost through federal, state and corporate grants. I want this to focus completely on the forgotten youths of a dying city. Anyone who has played a sport will tell you that it helps you in many other aspects of life. You learn a work ethic, discipline, teamwork, confidence and make lasting friendships. Through all of this you avoid trouble or you cannot play or be with these friends. Some kids can get an athletic scholarship because of this, some will get an academic  scholarship because they work harder to keep good grades because they want to play and go to college. It changes how many kids life daily. Why not offer a program that helps them?

         When the kids would enter are program there will be certain obligations  they must meet for us to defer their costs.
1) They must maintain a B average in school. If I a kid needs help, I would like to offer a tutoring program. Education is the key.
2) They must stay out of trouble. Any detention or suspension will be met with the same at our program. If it us a continuing problem we will refer it to a facility to help. We will try not to leave a kid behind. But they must realize there are repercussions for your actions.
3) They will be required to do volunteer work at a soup kitchen or any other program that requires volunteers to help the needy. To teach them empathy, compassion  and remind them that there are people who have it worse. After my daughter did these with the Key Club at G.A.R. High School she couldn’t wait to go back to help again.
4) To participate and help organize community outreach programs periodically. Several times a year. Anything to reach out to help those less fortunate, even if it is a free basketball or soccer tournament. Through this they will hopefully take pride in their community and look for ways to help improve it.
5) Summer programs and clinics that the kids can help teach. Teach them to give to others in order to help them improve their situation.
Most importantly I want to keep them off the street and out of trouble. Have impromptu  3 on 3 basketball  tournaments, 5 on 5 soccer tournaments. For those that want to play AAU or travel soccer, we will offer those programs but ask the kids to hand out flyers or participate  in fund eaising, all with a qualified adult present. I would like in the summer to offer child care to low income families. Several hours a day. Introduce them to a sport, get them outside and active. Have dodge ball tournaments. We need to fight childhood  obesity  as well.

            I would also like to offer affordable clinics for coaches. Youth coaches effect a child more then many people realize. It would help if they had proper training that didn’t eat up a lot of their time or money. Youth coaches are typically volunteers. They deserve some thanks in this grueling process. The better the coach, the better chance a child has. I want to build a facility  with several indoor courts, several outdoor courts, 2 high school size soccer fields and 2 small children soccer fields. Maybe I am being naive, but I believe this is needed where I live and in most other areas. Why can’t we be the template everyone else follows? I know some areas offer something similar to this. Now is the time for Wilkes-Barre  to offer it.   If you want to take your community back, wouldn’t this be a great jumping off point? Now to figure out how to get it done. Any ideas?

Our Basketball season up to now.

I knew we were in for a difficult season. We had about 5 practices before the season and zero preseason conditioning. It was our schools second year fielding a team and my first year coaching basketball.Our head coach has coached for awhile but it was only younger kids.

Our school had a combined budget of $5,000 for the girls and boys programs. We do not have our own gym, so we had to practice elsewhere. Between that and transportation our budget was gouged. We had 2 hour and half practices a week. I worked in as much fundamentals as I could. The head coach wants constant scrimmage. We get nothing out of them because there was nothing in place to work with.

The head coach wanted her kid to be the star. I had to inform her that she was not our best player. We also have a child who refuses coaching. If anything is said to her, she immediately takes it as a personal attack. When we took measures to curb her attitude and lax practice habits, her mother went on the attack. When she didnt get the right answer from the head coach, she went to the athletic director, when he didnt givec the right answer she went to the principal, who entertained her thereby undermining any other authority. It was a major issue, that was eventually ironed out.

We were not competitive. We were playing a 2-3, which we played solidly but our transition defense was atrocious. Despite drilling them to at least get one back, only one kid bought into it. Our perimeter defense was stout. Inside our girls didnt jump for rebounds or shift quick enough. At least 70% of the points we gave up were in transitions. The head coach switched us to a 1-3-1 and that got tore up, but she refused to switch out of it.

Offensively we are a complete mess. I wanted install an offense, coach was against it. I wanted to have plays, coach thought they would take up to much time. 6 games into the season she bought into the plays. We had 2 plays put in based around picks and motion. First game we ran it we had 27 shots, many of them wide open. The next day we played, the kids couldnt run the plays. We are running a 1-3-1 against the zone. It works well when they play it. It has been frustrating up to now. I give them simple assignments and then refused to do them.

I have begun installing a 3-2 motion offense. High and low post, overloading the ball side, with weak side backdoor cutting. The motion is there, they are setting picks and are now being more unselfish. The motion alone is an improvement, they do not move or come to the ball. We are not a good shooting team. I have done alot of work with their shots, they are not pushing off their chest anymore. We are hitting the rim more, not as many airbags. They know how to do a layup now.

We have seen incremental progress. I have kids crossing over, driving the lane when its there, taking smarter shots and there is more teamwork. The head coach and I are working way better together now and it shows. I am not a good coach, I am an improving coach, as is our head coach. Repetition is the key here. More practice time is also key. All I can hooe for is that they continue to improve. Hopefully we get more time next year.

Our first basketball game.

        I am not going to lie and say that I was oozing confidence. We had 7 1 and half hour practices, it was our first year in the league and the players knowledge was pretty weak. The Head Coach didn’t want to put in an offensive system because it would eat up the clock. I asked to go over the defenses, have a dry run and was told they were aggressive enough. I taught the kids a way to break the press by using picks or screens and movement. As you can see the kids werent working with much.

They won the tip off, kids didn’t play defense and they scored. Our girls forgot the press break and stood there waiting. Before you knew it we were down 8-0. I told the Head Coach to call a timeout and went over the break with them. We were able to inbound it but not move it up the court. The 2-3 defense turned into part man, part zone. One girl literally chased the ball all around the court. The spot she vacated in the zone was where they scored from. We were down 20-0 after one.

We came out in the second and were able to inbound and push it up the court. Very early in the quarter they stopped pressing. Our defense started to stay in position, except for our one outside on the back 3. Instead of covering the three point line on the back half, she would worry about the girl by the basket. She should have passed that on to the center. We stopped their fast break and it became more of a half court game. It was 26-2 at the half.

In the third and fourth quarter our lack of a half court offense was evident. We missed 4 free throws because the girls stepped over the line. Our center would not play her zone on defense and there was absolutely no court awareness whatsoever. At least 5 times we were caught from behind and had the ball stolen. I was calling for picks to no avail. Asking out bigs to establish position on the ball side to no avail. Asking for penetration again to no avail. We could not call a play because the girls wouldn’t listen. All this being said they never quit. We lost 36-6.

It was very frustrating, mostly because I wanted to approach these subjects, but was instructed not to. We play again tomorrow, I hope we learned from this. They need to play with a sense of urgency. I am sure we will see some improvement, but will it be enough.

Basketball Season starts soon.

      November 18 is our first school basketball practice.  I will be an Assistant Coach for the 7th and 8th grade girls team. We will have 3 practices before the season starts. So we are a little behind the 8 ball here. Not to mention 4 out of our 13 girls have never played before. This will be my first time coaching basketball. I am very excited.

When I played I was an above average point guard with a good jump shot. I am a little nervous going into this, mostly because I have expectations becausr of playing experience. I never played soccer so it was easy to coach. I have started reading books on coaching girls basketball and the ideas I have are pretty similar. Defensively I would like to play a 2-3 zone, with occasional full court press. The theory if played correctly forces the shots to be taken from outside or forces teams to dribble into the teeth of the defense. I hope the theory holds up.

Offense will be a bigger challenge. We are a tall team that lacks any true ball handlers. They also do not like body contact, so boxing out is going to be a chore. Our most talented player shoots like a chicken would (odd description, but fits perfectly). She has never seen a shot she didn’t like or could make. She makes less than 30% of her shots. The half court offense that makes the most sense to me here would rely heavily on the pick and roll and/or a motion offense. I think these styles would give us closer looks at the basket. The other odd problem, no one wants to shoot. I found that odd, most boys can’t shoot enough.

Last year they lost every game. Their closest loss was by 18 points. Our work is cut out for us. But I am used to being in this position, taking over a team that doesn’t know how to win. Our first priority is to be competitive, then hopefully win. I will post more, hopefully daily. I would like to update my ideas and hopefully get some input.Thank you.

Possession soccer vs long ball soccer.

                I coach U13 girls soccer. My daughter joined her school team and they are not good. They are athletic and  have some good ball handlers. But they play big kick soccer as opposed to possession soccer. There is also a disconnect between the kids and the coach. I am not tryingvyo belittle the coach, he played soccer for 15 years and definitely knows how to play the game better than me. But he seems to be stuck in an older style of soccer that doesn’t work anymore.

Their first 3 games they lost; 12-2, 8-1 and 9-1. They were getting blown out from the get go. One huge problem I see is the long kicks downfield. In yesterday’s game there were at least 15 long kicks, not one time did we retain possession. That is 15 lost possessions, 15 chances to score a goal and keep the ball out of the other teams hands. They are also lacking serious fundamentals. He has them everyday for an hour and half, his plan should be taking shape.

Fundamentally they are lacking, always trying for flashy instead of just making the play. Instead of getting their body in front of the ball, they throw legs up. Instead of controlling the ball and looking where they are passing, they just kick it with not regard to who it is going to. Defensively they play with the ball near the box. They will be in a crowd and kick up the middle. They consistently do this and consistently lose the ball in the scoring zone. I don’t know why they don’t just kick it out of bounds, it gives you the opportunity to reset and winning throw ins is about a 50/50 chance.

I don’t pretend to be the best coach in the world, but if you see something that works, USE IT. Each team they played against used the short to medium passing game and kicked it out on defense, not everytime, but were coached how and when to do it. They worked the ball up the field, instead of using the big kick/fast break style. One of our teams goals was scored that way, the rest on penalty kicks. He also pushes his defense up across the half line, even though it consistently gets beat back, even though they have a defender that stays behind the rest.

I preach the shorter passing game and possession soccer. I also preach having your defenders kick it out, unless they have open field in front of them. I believe in body position on defense and not making a play on the ball until you ride them where you want them. It has worked for a team that won 3 or 4 games over 4 years. I watched Chelsea vs Everton last week and there were not many big kicks down the field. Even the goalie would roll it to the defenders. One touch passing and short to medium passes make the defense move more, causing them to be out of position. Spain won a World Cup with this method.

I hope this coach can find the right mix between his method and the newer way of soccer, but I don’t see it. Even warmups he has them doing sharks and minnows while the other team has the offense working against their defense. No one works with the goalie who is brand new to goalie and soccer. I know I sound like an unhappy parent, I am a coach who sees where they can improve, and I am not seeing it. I have not said anything to the coach and never will, it is his team despite my unhappiness with the system. Could they win with possession soccer, probably not at first, it is hard to sell kids on, but they will competetive. Which will then grow confidence, which will then lead to wins. I hope I get a high school job next year. I want to see if my ideas work therd as well