The city school board approved a motion last month effectively ending the athletic rivalry between the two school districts. Officials with the Hazard system cited safety as a main concern, noting that recent occurrences at sporting events raised alarm and the need for a cooling down period. The two districts will continue to play games they are contractually obligated to play, but any further events in any sport, with the exception of contests required by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, will not be scheduled.
Perry County Superintendent John Paul Amis told the Herald last month that he disagreed with the decision to end the athletic contests between the two districts, noting that he wished officials on both sides could have discussed the issue before a decision was made. He reiterated those feelings at Thursday’s meeting of the Perry County Board of Education.
“I think they should play,” he told the members of the board.
Board member Charlene Miller agreed, adding that a discourse between the two boards could lead to a resolution to keep the competition alive, and ending the athletic rivalry hurts the students much more than the adults. She said in some instances high school rivals will go on to attend the same college and later become friends.
“It hurts a lot of kids in the city and the county,” she said.
Board Chairman John C. Combs added that he is in agreement that the two boards should meet and discuss the issue.
“We want to get along with them,” he said.
Following the discussion, the board voted to approve a motion to alter future non-resident agreements, in effect reducing the number of students who can attend school in the city district while living in the county to a one-to-one basis pending a meeting with the Hazard school board. The current non-resident agreement between the county and city, Amis said, is on a one-to-one basis plus 25, meaning that the city can enroll the same number of students who attend school in the county while living in the city plus an extra 25 students. Along with the students, the district receives state funding as well.
Amis said he notified Hazard Superintendent Sandra Johnson of the motion and the board’s desire to set up a meeting between board members on both sides.
“We at least want to sit down and talk about concerns,” he said. “All the board members would love to continue the competition with the Hazard School System and don’t want to see it end. None of us do.”
Amis added that he would like to see any potential meeting open up to whatever the two boards want to discuss.
Supt. Johnson said Monday that she has responded to Amis and that she would inform the members of the Hazard board. She said she had spoken with a couple of the members, but couldn’t confirm at the time whether a meeting would take place until she heard back from the entire board.
Hazard Board Chairman Dr. Elmer Gabbard said Tuesday that he doesn't think the meeting will take place as the reasons for their decision to end athletic competition between the districts were clear. He noted that he was speaking for himself, but that he believes the competition has gone from a simple rivalry to a source of contention amongst residents of the same county. He added that a meeting between the boards wouldn't serve to help the education of the students, so he didn't see any reason to hold it.
"Right now, we don't see any reason to change our stance," he said. "We did it for what we felt was in the best interest of our school system and not to hurt anybody else. We didn't do it for spite. We did it for the benefit of our own school system."
Gabbard noted that there will be future opportunities for the two districts to compete against each other in tournaments and other events, but said the Hazard board felt like a cooling down period was needed. He added that it may be possible that the board could revisit the issue in the future.