By TIM HORAN
Athletics was a hot topic at the Abilene USD 435 Board of Education’s regular meeting Monday night.
But first the board unanimously approved the consent agenda, which included two personnel changes.
Chris Cooper, principal at Garfield for the past 14 years, was named the assistant superintendent. He replaces Denise Guy who is acting superintendent. Cooper will start on July 1.
Also at Garfield, Christy Whitehair will be the fourth grade teacher next school year. She replaces Vicki Desbien who is retiring.
Abilene High School principal Ben Smith said the school hosted a regional Scholars Bowl contest, a Regional Wrestling contest “that went off flawlessly” and a Sub-State Basketball Tournament.
“On the first night of the basketball tournament, I witnessed a student come up to Mr. (Will) Burton and say, ‘thank you for allowing us to have this tournament here and hosting it for us.’ That same student, two nights later, after beating McPherson, said the same thing to me and said we would not have won the game if we weren’t hosting it.
“I’ve never been to a school that’s hosted three huge items like that in just a few weeks. Mid-January was the Scholars Bowl and we just finished up sub-state in early March.
“It was a job very well done,” Smith said.
“Also a few shout-outs for our students,” he said, adding a teacher passed on a comment on Monday. The teacher takes care of a mid-20-year-old special needs student. She took him to the basketball tournament in Salina.
“This morning she (the teacher) was almost in tears,” he said. “You know what? Our kids were awesome the way they treated him and the way they made him feel welcome and appreciated as a person was just very heartwarming.”
The individual works at a restaurant in Salina and he ended up helping serve a number of students and when they saw him later at the basketball game they made him feel welcome and warm, the teacher told Smith.
“She said it was not just one kid, two kids, it was a slew of Abilene High School students,” Smith said. “She felt real thankful what our students put him through and how he felt. Overall, we have just some great kids and we can’t lose sight of that.”
“We need to reiterate that Mr. Burton did a nice job,” board member Gregg Noel said. With that the Abilene athletic director and assistant principal received applause from the board.
“We’re fortunate in that we have a lot of people that step up and do a great job,” Burton said. “I’ll throw it back to Mr. Smith who had an absentee assistant principal for three weeks. That’s part of it. You go and talk to other schools and they say we could never do a regional wrestling tournament. We don’t have the people that can do it. Same thing with sub-state basketball. It comes down to the quality of workers.”
Burton also commented on the students’ behavior at the Class 4A State Basketball Tournament hosted by the Bicentennial Center last week in Salina in which the Cowboys placed fourth.
“There is always something we are dealing with,” he said of the sometimes rambunctious student section. “But when you have time to reflect back, we’re doing okay. I am very happy with our attendance, especially the first two nights.”
He also commented on the large crowds at the sub-state games in the AHS Gym.
“Our community supports our teams. It made you feel good about being from Abilene,” he added.
“You even got messages from other parents from other towns about our basketball players showing sportsmanship-like conduct. That was real positive,” Guy said.
“We did,” he added. “And we’re two weeks into the spring sports season and the track team hasn’t seen the track, the baseball team hasn’t seen the baseball field and the softball team hasn’t seen the softball field. It was good to see our golfers out on the course today.”
It was also brought up that the AHS gym floor needs to be replaced.
A capital outlay of $95,000 will cover the floor but not the base.
Burton said the architects recommended a floating floor underneath.
“We can’t sand it anymore,” he said. “All we can do is put another finish on it.”
He said it had been nine years since the floor was refinished. Burton said the floor might last one more year which would give the board time to fix the substructure.
“To repaint it, you will have to sand it off and we can’t do that,” he added.
Other items on the Capital Outlay will be the topic in Wednesday’s newspaper.