By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Giggles erupted during Thursday’s meeting of the Madison County School Board when Chuck Cash, assistant principal at Madison Southern High School, approached the podium with a unusual request.
Cash asked the board to authorize competitive bass fishing at both county high schools.
The proposal passed 4-1, but not until after some debate among board members.
Cash said he is on the Kentucky High School Athletic Association bass fishing advisory council, an announcement that triggered even more giggles from the audience.
Kentucky is the second state in the nation to sanction competitive bass fishing as a high school sport, he said.
More than 400 colleges and universities offer a partial- or full-scholarship for bass fisherman, Cash said.
In fact, Eastern Kentucky University’s bass fishing team won the collegiate national championship three years ago, he noted.
Board member John Lackey was immediately wary of what expenses the district might incur for the new extracurricular activity and asked Cash for specifics.
Cash said expenses incur on the individual who sponsors a boat for each two-person team. Students must pay $25 for extended coverage under the insurance policy carried for student athletes —there will be no additional cost to the district, Cash assured him.
Students also are required to take a boater safety test and must maintain a certain grade-point average like other students involved in KHSAA sports.
One of the challenges to the new sport is getting enough people to donate their boat and their time to the teams, Cash said. Boats are inspected for safety before every competition. Boaters must wear a life jacket and safety glasses at all times as well as adhere to a speed limit.
Cash said several students at Southern have inquired about starting a bass fishing team.
“We could probably fill 15 boats — that’s two students per boat,” he said.
Lackey wasn’t convinced.
“I’m sure everybody likes to fish, but is the next one (activity) going to be turkeys?” Lackey asked. “I just have a feeling that this is not the kind of image we want to create for the school district … I doubt this is part of the core academic standards, and it’s probably not something we want to project as part of our curriculum.”
However, the competitions occur on the weekends and are not part of the curriculum, Cash replied.
“This gives students a chance to compete at a state level,” Cash said. “Not everyone is tall enough to dunk a basketball. This person may like fishing and can have the opportunity to stand up and represent their school. That’s the thing that intrigues and excites me about it.”
Lackey speculated that bass fishing as a high school sport grew out of an organization’s desire to sell more fishing equipment. He asked why schools should be involved in these kind of extra-curricular activities.
“I can’t think of a more wholesome activity than competitive bass fishing,” replied board chair Mona Isaacs, who said her nephew is one of the students interested in the sport.
“Why do we have archery tournaments? Why do we have golf teams? Why do we have tennis teams? All of these are opportunities for our students to be involved in something that engages them in school,” Isaacs said. “...If it’s shooting a turkey, or catching a bass, or hitting a tennis ball across the net, I think it’s all opportunities for our students to succeed and excel and to find something they’re interested in.”
Board member Mary Renfro, who often is in agreement with Lackey, said she was thinking about letting the students use her boat to compete.
Board member Beth Brock said she has a son who would rather “hunt and fish than breathe.”
“To think that he will have a group that he can get involved with — it’s going to be awesome,” she said.
Becky Coyle, a longtime member of the board, said bass fishing will be another activity that might appeal to a different group of students. “There are a lot of kids with a lot of different interests,” she said. “There might be student that isn’t involved in any other activity, and we finally found something for that student and that’s what counts.”
In other business, the board:
• Scheduled a work session for 5 p.m. Sept. 24 at the central office (550 S. Keeneland Drive, Richmond) for training by the Kentucky School Board Association
• Moved the Nov. 14 regularly scheduled school board meeting to Madison Southern High School auditorium instead of the Madison Central lecture lab
• Renewed a yearly contract for Microsoft Windows/Office software for a special school district price of $68,000. Chief operations officer Dr. Kevin Hub said if the district paid retail price, it would cost more than $4 million to use the Microsoft software on district computers. Even with the educator’s discount, it would cost more than $1 million, he said.
Look in Sunday’s Richmond Register for a second story about Thursday’s school board meeting.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.