Pinecrest Concern Brings a Crowd to School Board Meet
A crowd of parents and other community residents attended the Board of Education meeting Monday night to voice concern about the beleaguered Pinecrest football program.
The varsity team has fewer than 20 players and has lost its past two games by a total margin of 101 points.
Attorney Tom Van Camp was the spokes-man for the group of about 50 supporters. He spoke to the board during its public address time.
The group presented a petition signed by about 1,000 people calling for a reorganization and restructuring of football programs across Moore County.
In his address, Van Camp asked the board to consider providing more funding for all sports programs and to make a greater effort to hire and keep quality coaches.
"We have issues at Pinecrest that require strong leadership," he said. "It actually starts at the principal level, then the athletic director. We need somebody that is strong and that can take the coaches and bring them together and make policies."
The school has been plagued by a lack of continuity, Van Camp said. It needs more centralized athletic leadership, beginning with a county athletic director, he said.
"This community is crying out for a football program," he said. "I'm not talking about winning state championships, I'm talking about respectability."
Van Camp closed with a burst of pathos that underscored the room's emotional buildup.
"I don't want any seniors coming through high school like the seniors (at Pinecrest) did this year, having to be embarrassed," he said. "I think that we should not put any more children and any more coaches through what they went through."
Once he finished, board member Kathy Farren responded to his address.
Under board policy, members do not make extended comments about public addresses until the end of the meeting.
"These are all items we're looking into," she said.
But that still seemed to hit some nerves as the Pinecrest crowd filed out of the meeting room.
"That's the answer we're looking for: 'We'll look into it,'" said former Pinecrest coach George Fredericks as he left the room. "It's been like that for 10 years."
Others were frustrated at the amount of time allocated for the public address. According to board policy, any person or group that wants to address the board must limit address time to five minutes.
"That's how unimportant it is -- five minutes (for) your youth," said parent Max Deen, whose son plays football at Pinecrest.
But board members have insisted that they have been working on a solution that addresses the entire issue of athletics in Moore County, not just surface concerns.
"Part of what I've had is really a long-term view," said Super-intendent Susan Purser in an interview after the meeting. "Not something instantaneous."
Purser said her office -- under the direction of Assistant Superintendent Larry Upchurch -- is conducting a comprehensive study of athletic programs in all county middle schools and high schools.
"We are really in an information-gathering type of stage," she said during the comment time at the end of the meeting. "We want to make sure that we're looking at a holistic fashion and also how we can work with the community (in athletic programs)."
But the Pinecrest supporters weren't there to hear Purser's or any of the board member's comments -- they left before the board comment time at the end of the meeting.
"I'm sorry the parents left before we had a chance to talk among ourselves what the board can do to help athletics in the county," board member Bruce Cunningham said. "That's really why the board is here -- to support the work of our staff and our administration."
Members of the Pinecrest group said the team has been demoralized for too long with too little outside support.
The football team has qualified for the playoffs just twice since it opened. It stands this year at 0-7 overall.
"We have a community that says 'Pinecrest is garbage,'" said Corney Cook at a gathering in the parking lot before the meeting. Cook had coached at Pinecrest and teaches at West Pine Middle School. "But football is a Moore County problem. The only time we win is when we play each other."
Katherine Evans in an intern from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Contact her at 693-2480 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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