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Pay-to-participate, the detestable alternative for athletics in towns that feign destitution, isn't good enough in Ledyard anymore. Fancy that. The $100 that golfers, swimmers and freshmen soccer players pay to play their sports can't cover expenses anymore, apparently, thus making them fodder for extinction.
Yes. This was the news spewing forth Wednesday night from the Board of Education's Finance Committee, the residual effect of the town's recent budget hearing that, again, targets the kids. Always the kids. It's like this everywhere now. Go after athletics. It gets people screaming. Blah, blah, blah.
Then there's Ledyard, where pay-to-participate isn't far behind pay-for-math-class. Don't put it past the penniless population. Do you have any idea how much math books cost?
The $100 per kid, which covers the cost of officials and transportation, doesn't cover pool fees, golf course rentals and supplies. Cutting golf, swimming and freshman soccer amounts to lunch money in the grander scheme. But then, the shameless, by definition, have no shame.
Straight up: It is your responsibility in a democracy to fund education. And its tentacles. If you do not, your town is not worth moving to or living in. And when pay to participate still isn't enough? You are a punchline.
Ah, but the penniless didn't stop with sports. The high school newspaper, too. It costs too much to print. No, really. This is in the same school where an official told yours truly one night this winter that the budget strings are so rigid, they weren't allowed to buy Kleenex.
Once again: Kleenex.
How long till pay-to-participate in Ledyard extends to the restrooms, too? Maybe 25 cents for No. 1 and a dollar and a half for everything else, including exclusive use of Quilted Northern. Sounds fair.
I'm testy today because I really like the kids at Ledyard High. I know many of them through sports. They don't deserve this. And so I would like to make them a modest proposal regarding the school newspaper:
It's clear nobody outside your building cares whether you exist. So assume responsibility for yourselves and become The Colonel: Ledyard High School's Independent School Newspaper.
That means you raise the money for self-sufficiency. And you assume full editorial control. No more Big Brother. You write what you want about whomever you want and nobody in or out of school gets to say a word.
Make a budget. Shop around places to print the paper. When you arrive at your bottom line, sell advertisements to cover costs (I'll even help). There are plenty of businesses that target high school kids: athletic apparel stores, pizza joints, gadget sellers (Best Buy, Verizon) who'd love their message to land at the feet of high school kids who either have their own money to spend or can con their parents.
A number of possible stories could then be written. I'd suggest the front page of the first independently written and produced newspaper begins with a trivia question:
Why are Plainfield, Killingly, Waterford, Stonington and Groton better than Ledyard?
Answer: Because their taxpayers and elected officials figured out ways recently to build new high schools. Perhaps a study of per capita incomes between the paupers in Ledyard and Gales Ferry and the good folks of Plainfield and Killingly would be another good front page story. I doubt the taxpayers of Plainfield and Killingly are more affluent. But they managed to rub a few dimes together to erect beautiful new schools, beacons to learning.
Front page story No. 3: How is Ledyard High School falling down? Let us count the ways. It's only older than Nancy Reagan.
So how does this sound so far?
The object is to make the people in your town look as pathetic as possible. If they haven't already won an Emmy doing so. Because I've got to say that a high school in shambles, a successful athletic program that's undermined and using the school newspaper as a political pawn is about as trifling as it gets.
You have some great kids in your town, paupers.
Keep acting like this, and nobody is ever going to move into Ledyard ever again.
Come to think of it: Why would you now?
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.