School Board Accepts Donation, Oks Fee Hike, Hears Football Health Risks

Students on the South Pasadena Sea Tigers Swim Team hold up a $6,500 check to the South Pasadena Unified School District with Board Members at the School Board meeting on February 12, 2019. Photo by Skye Hannah

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the School Board of the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) accepted a donation from the South Pasadena Sea Tigers Swim Team and heard a parent’s concern on educating parents and students on the brain health risks of playing tackle football. The board also approved a resolution that will increase statutory school fees on new residential and commercial/industrial development projects.

The South Pasadena Sea Tigers Swim Team showed up in full force as numerous students were in attendance for the donation of $6,500 to the board. Coll Melcalfe, parent and board member of the team, explained that the funds will support pool equipment, training equipment, a scoreboard and other items for the various programs of the team. With the team’s 30-year history in the district serving thousands of students, Melcalfe credited the supportive partnership of SPUSD.
“With this, just wanted to say thanks again for your support,” said Melcalfe.

SPUSD parent Joseph Charney also addressed the board, highlighting a concern he had on the informed consent of health risks to students playing tackle football at South Pasadena High School. Charney previously addressed the board last year as well on the issue. He shared concerns that parents and students are not being well-informed enough on the risk of players developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.
“I’m here once again to argue that this board has the duty to edify the parents of those boys with intent to play tackle football, as well as the athletes, to the additional and separate risk to CTE that the sport tackle presents,” said Charney.

Although the district does offer concussion seminars prior to each season that include information on CTE and are mandatory for students and coaches, Charney shared with The Review a concern that the seminars are optional for parents and guardians. He shared with the School Board that most parents acknowledge that playing sports can cause injuries, but many don’t know extensively about CTE. He urged the board to provide “objective and comprehensive” information and to look further into the matter before the start of the next football season.

The School Board also unanimously approved raising statutory school fees on new residential and commercial/industrial development projects in the city. Dave Lubs, assistant superintendent of business services, explained to the board that the state of California authorizes school districts to collect developer fees to meet needs as growth occurs.
“When there are new construction projects in communities, that typically leads to additional need for classroom space to accommodate those additional square footages,” said Lubs.

According to Lubs, the board most recently raised fees in 2015. Last year, the state raised the fees again, which, he said, was tied to inflation. Lubs shared that the district conducted an independent study as part of the resolution and the fees are typically used to pay for the mobile classrooms. Board Member Dr. Michele Kipke added her support for the resolution approval.

“With all the development that’s expected in the city, it’s obviously a great thing,” said Kipke.