Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

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By Ted Pallad, Santa Barbara Friday Night Lights

CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN'T WIN?

More than 680 children from 46 different local elementary and middle schools may lose the opportunity to play flag football on Friday nights this fall at Santa Barbara Junior High School. Conflicts with The Marjorie Luke Theatre, parking and school administration pushback are the reasons. 

Kids in grades K-8th from Goleta, Santa Barbara and Montecito have come to the school on Friday nights to play their one hour game for about ten weeks each season. Santa Barbara Friday Night Lights ("FNL") has become a successful community event in town offering kids and families a fun, safe and healthy activity on Friday nights. Now, due to previous parking conflicts with The Marjorie Luke Theatre, FNL had their Fall 2022 permits cancelled. Outgoing School Principal, Arielle Curry acknowledges that they could work around their schedule but does not think Santa Barbara FNL is a 'good fit' for the school moving forward. It should be noted that Mrs. Curry is also serving as a Board Member of the Marjorie Luke Theatre.

Arielle Curry is leaving Santa Barbara Junior High School to become principal at Washington Elementary in the fall. Santa Barbara FNL had almost 70 children from Washington Elementary school alone that played this past Spring. Curry tells FNL that due to parking constraints that will significantly impact the school and East Side community, she will not be approving their fall 2022 permits.

The Marjorie Luke Theatre has 800 seats in their auditorium which, could potentially, equal 400 or more cars. FNL has a maximum of 258 kids playing or warming up at any given time, making far less of an impact on the east side. The Ocean Hills Covenant Church also is also allowed to park on campus every Sunday, again with hundreds of cars filling the school parking lots and city streets. 

"Due to the fact that we understand FNL games, church services and theater productions cannot take place at the same time, we've gladly rescheduled games and have been extremely flexible to avoid any conflicts. Still, the kids of FNL are the ones that are being punished. Unfortunately, Santa Barbara is extremely limited in public field space. We have found that the fields at SBJH are available and ideal to accommodate the kids that want to play FNL. Without these fields, I'm afraid we'll have nowhere to go." says Nevin Pallad, Co-Commissioner at FNL.

Youth sports organizations in Santa Barbara continuously struggle to find open field space. The only challenge this past year for FNL was conflicts with the Marjorie Luke Theatre and parking, even though it was only for 2 of their 10 scheduled Friday night games.

It should be noted that the commissioners of Friday Night Lights have been huge supporters of the performing arts at the school district for the past seven years. All 4 of their children have participated and continue to participate in musical and theater productions at San Marcos High School, La Colina Junior High and Santa Barbara City College.

'We are huge fans of theater and youth sports. We've offered to work with The Luke on parking challenges and to promote their future productions to our FNL families", says Ted Pallad, Commissioner of Santa Barbara FNL.  

A 'unique' joint-use partnership was created in 2002 between the Luke Theatre and the Santa Barbara Unified School District that enables them to operate the theatre for community and school use.

Pallad also stated, "We know the Luke does not want us on campus which has been expressed to us by several employees at SBJHS. Joint use of public school facilities is supposed to be a way to efficiently enhance the services and programs available to students while supporting the community use of public schools. While many local officials understand that joint use of public schools can often provide a host of benefits, doing so requires public agencies to work together in new and different ways. We are able to work with everyone but we just aren't getting their support."

Friday Night Lights suggested that the school district should open the parking lot on their 4.7 acre property (National Guard Armory Building) across the street from the school, which they spent $11.6 million dollars to purchase. "Their investment has sat vacant and behind a chain linked fence for over 5 years now. Currently its used for construction storage. What a waste of money and resources. This space would alleviate parking challenges for the East Side and would easily address the schools parking concerns."

FNL also pays almost $20,000 to Santa Barbara Junior High School for the use of their fields and feels that this money greatly benefits all students at Santa Barbara Unified.

Santa Barbara Friday Night Lights is hoping that they can work together with Santa Barbara Junior High School, The Marjorie Luke Theatre and Santa Barbara Unified School District to have their fall permits reinstated and approved. "There are no obstacles that we can't work through," says Pallad. "This is supposed to be all about the kids and it's frustrating that the decision made is because someone doesn't think we're a 'good fit' for the school and others are just unwilling to work on solutions. We hope our FNL families can help us secure these fields and prove to the school and district that we are actually a 'great fit' for Santa Barbara Junior High School.

FNL has reached out to Superintendent Maldonado and the school principal and unfortunately, has not heard back from either. 


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53 Comments

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SBLetsGetAlong Jun 23, 2022 05:30 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

This is like the City saying they do not have any off street parking for homeless Ah, look at all the city parking lots that sit empty overnight.
The City won’t open up their empty public lots for people to use overnight.
Hypocrites who say they want to help but don’t use their own resources. The City is a NIMBY.

SBLetsGetAlong Jun 23, 2022 05:27 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

“ Arielle Curry … does not think Santa Barbara FNL is a 'good fit' for the school.
But spending $35,000,000 at SBHS for a football stadium was a good fit.
If the kids can’t grow up playing football why did the district spend $35,000,000 on a stadium?
While paint is peeling. doors and windows don’t open, ingrains don’t work.

Choose a different location? Easier said than done. La Colina Jr High won’t host. The City parks will not host and the city grounds are riddled with gopher holes making it dangerous to the kids running.
So where is a good place to host this community driven sport that will populate the $35,000,000 stadium at SBHS?

Babycakes Jun 23, 2022 09:52 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Mayor Rowse is currently in the process of getting public and private funds to establish a lighted multi-use sports facility, which is primarily to be used by local youth leagues/teams. Please be patient as these things do not happen overnight, even though they were needed "yesterday." In the mean time, he is working with local schools to see what can be done to rectify the lack of facilities for our youth. Good job Randy!

Lorax Jun 22, 2022 10:06 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Please copy your comments of disatisfaction directly to the source that has the authority to work out a soulution so students and families are supported. Email Dr Hilda Moldonado, the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board members as well as Dr Susan Salcido
hmaldonado@sbunified.org
rmunoz@sbunified.org
valvarez@sbunified.org
wsims-moten@sbunified.org
lcapps@sbunified.org
kford@sbunified.org
ssalcido@sbceo.org

dukemunson Jun 22, 2022 09:27 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Who is defending the schools stopping kids from using the field because the theater wants complete and utter control of the parking for any/all non school hours??? Like seriously…other than being a school admin and as such appreciating the bureaucratic humor of revoking just to revoke/because it would make their life (just ever so slightly) easier, why?

montyburns Jun 22, 2022 09:11 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

The reason the permit was revoked was a single issue.

FNL and SBUSD signed a contract for FNL to use the SBJHS fields on specific dates. Then, midway through the FNL spring season someone in admin (at either SBJHS or SBUSD) screwed up and double booked SBJHS by permitting an event at the LUKE on the same night as a previously contracted FNL game night.

All of this mess could have been avoided if that person in admin had been able to manage a calendar spreadsheet.

Going forward SBUSD doesn't want to be held responsible for any possible scheduling conflicts because, apparently, they don't feel confident they are organized enough to handle multiple groups at the same location. So, they are divorcing themselves from the easier relationship to drop.

It's a good thing SBUSD is only in charge of our kids education!

NotReallyDave Jun 22, 2022 07:48 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Hilda is saying they had an earlier MOU that superseeded the recent sports agreement. Sounds like somebody was not doing their job correctly and so the cleanup begins. Let's give 'em a raise. Sorry for the kids.

a-1655952331 Jun 22, 2022 07:45 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

When I volunteered to coach soccer, I made sure that my kids picked up 10 pieces of trash before leaving the field. When we leave places in better condition than we found them, it makes things better for everyone.
Some of the arguments in this thread sound extremely entitled. As if the schools owed it to the general public to allow themselves to be trashed every week. The money to maintain the schools and fields comes out of a budget that also pays for teaching children and paying salaries and buying educational tools.
Perhaps the FNL organizers could ask for an exit interview with the principal to find out if there was anything in their organization that could stand improvement before hurling wild random accusations all around.

Lorax Jun 22, 2022 03:00 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

What kind of judgment does this principle have who only months ago so mishandled the racial incident at the Santa Barbara Jr High that has resulted in several lawsuits to date?
What kind of management is this from this principle or this Santa Barbara School District administration?
There needs to be a full discussion to come to reasonable solutions that would allow these athletic games to continue.
I think opening up more parking at the Armory in proximity that just sits abandoned tying up a huge capital investment is an excellent idea to explore if more parking is needed.
We don't need more politics hurting our children. With mental health such a growing problem, the importance of opportunities for physical activity and socializing for students of this district should be a priority.

lovesbalot Jun 22, 2022 11:01 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Use the Armory for parking.... It is just sitting there doing nothing meaningful. In fact I heard that is where the last superintendent put the Resource Center that was donated to the district and was run in the main admin building on Santa Barbara St until Matsuoka moth balled it. Not a very good steward.
The Armory cost the district 26.5 million dollars and has done so little to benefit any students. This would solve the parking issue.

Lucky 777 Jun 22, 2022 10:44 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

To me the salient point is: the school district should open the parking lot on their 4.7 acre property (National Guard Armory Building) across the street from the school, which they spent $11.6 million dollars to purchase. The building and parking lot WE AS TAXPAYERS BOUGHT. Which has been left empty and chained off for 5 YEARS? How many times have we heard politicians drivel about how kids "turn to gang involvement" because of a lack of alternatives. Programs like FNL are part of a solution.

Basicinfo805 Jun 23, 2022 11:49 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Lucky 777, I totally agree. Great point about the hypocrisy - the district admin. players and city leaders often make that correlation, but here they are denying a massively popular youth activity, where? You guessed it, right in the heart of the lower east side. Wow.

sacjon Jun 22, 2022 10:51 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

LUCKY777 - BINGO! That thing has sat there still chained and abandoned for far too long after our taxes bought it. The least they can do is clear it out and open the gates to allow parking. How hard would that be? Hire an attendant or 2 to just keep an eye on the property ONE night a week. SB has always been "unfriendly" to youth activities since I was a kid here in the 70s. Goleta has proven to be far more kid-friendly. Maybe Girsh will throw up some lights? Be fun to have night games out there!

a-1655919313 Jun 22, 2022 10:35 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Other sporting organizations in town run on shoestring budgets and rely on parent volunteers for clean ups, facility and field monitoring, etc Either the organization have to charge exorbitant registration fees to cover it (making it inaccessible for many) or rely of parent volunteers (put your money where your mouth is). Nobody likes to clean up, and nobody likes to babysit, but it's part of the deal. Sounds like a number of communication and organizational failures took place at this location. Too little too late.

sacjon Jun 22, 2022 10:26 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

This is awful! As if youth sports haven't been hit hard enough as it is. The district also just declared a surprise 2 week "dead period" for summer high school sports. STOP MESSING WITH YOUTH SPORTS!! Kids need this and FNL is a great organization, for all ages up to high school, boys and girls. My kids have done it and it's awesome to see them out there having fun every week with hundreds of other kids. We were worried about parking last year at SB Jr. High, but we always found a spot either at the school or within a block of the field.

SBJH and SBUSD - whoever is to blame for this, STOP. Let the kids PLAY!!

sacjon Jun 22, 2022 12:45 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

11:59 - oh, interesting, didn't know. Why though? They get a month off between spring season and summer "season" (really just practice/scrimmages). Weird and disruptive to stop mid June after only a couple weeks of summer sports. Either way, youth sports have suffered enough for one generation. These kids need to play!

a-1655924346 Jun 22, 2022 11:59 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

SAC, the 2 week dead period is a CIF requirement and has been for decades, there is nothing surprising about it. It was waived last year due to COVID, but since things are sort of back to normal, so is the dead period.

Transparent Jun 22, 2022 09:43 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

The last two comments are essentially making my point... that the School District doesn't think it's their role to manage our public fields and assets for the public good, just for their own purposes. Anything else is a hassle.

If that's the case, the fields should be ceded to Public Works or Parks and Rec, with the schools having exculsive right of use during recess and priority for their extracurricular needs. "Cleaning up after events" is literally part of the job.

Could you imagine if Parks and Rec wanted to cancel parades or Fiesta or 4th of July because it's a lot of work? Or if Parks and Rec cancelled sporting events on fields because it's annoying to manage the turf or enforce rules around dogs? Attn Hilda and friends, it's literally part of your job.

For all the big talk, the District has really lost sight of their mandate as a community partner. As I said before, the rubber isn't meeting the road.

Transparent Jun 22, 2022 07:11 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

@Goleta is good. You're wrong... it's great!!!

Not trying to be unfriendly (hence my stupid joke above) but it's hard to take the concern for the grass as anything other than a pretext. Cancel football or soccer because it's bad for the grass? Why do we pay for the grass to be there in the first place!?! You're throwing the baby out with the bath-water.

In general, when someone gives you a litany of very shallow reasons why something can't be done, they're looking for a way to say no. It hurts our community, one bureaucratic papercut at a time.

Can learn a lot from watching The Office. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuTfZwnpn78

GoletaisGood Jun 22, 2022 09:56 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Transparent...
I am grateful when my kids have nice grass fields to play on at school. If the fields get torn up and become dirt patches, it is not "good" and it is extremely costly to repair which involves field closures for all. They need to be managed to prevent overuse. The school district facilities manager may be doing just this... Why not slow your judgements until you have more information?

GoletaisGood Jun 22, 2022 08:55 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Did not hear much about the district's explanation for this, but a few things to consider...
This isn't simply the principal's decision - the district makes the final call with the management of the facilities and the fields. Any facility request must ultimately be approved by them. At some point, the principal does "sign-off" but it is not solely their decision.
PE teachers and school grounds crews (usually one person or less) work tirelessly to keep their fields in good and safe shape for their hundreds of kids that use the fields daily. They are their first priority. Games with cleats absolutely tear up a field and even two days a week will turn grass fields into dirt patches (and then unplayable mud bogs when it rains).
And as someone else pointed out, these events often create huge messes.
We had this same issue with youth football at my old school. Their use was limited to dry weather, but they would never cancel practice when it was wet and would completely tear up the field time after time. Admin would move them to the blacktop everytime, but they would move back... On game day, trash would be on the field and in the parking lot. People would pee in between the school buildings (even when they had bathroom access) and the bathrooms would be left a mess. Kids, who were not playing, would roam the campus and do strange things like climb up the buildings and throw roofing materials everywhere - the school was their playground. We were short staffed with custodians and had great difficulty getting these events covered. Even when they were, it would take days to get things back in order. So, I respect the district's decision to manage their facilities as they see fit. There are a number of community parks that have playgrounds, parking and bathrooms meant for crowds. (I'm sure we still need more though, but that is not the school's problem to solve)

dukemunson Jun 22, 2022 02:51 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Goleta - I don’t think you understand the situation, this doesn’t have anything to do with the fields. It’s a l out the Marjorie Luke not wanting any non school event night on the calendar to potentially interfere with parking for their event.

a-1655910103 Jun 22, 2022 08:01 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

In general, schools don’t like having to clean up after sporting events where people bring dogs, food, etc and leave the fields trashed. That’s what many of the local school campuses are closed. We can’t have nice things.

salsipuedes Jun 22, 2022 05:58 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Favoring parking instead of playing seems a really bad priority. Another awful move by the tone-deaf education elite in Santa Barbara that have transformed the school district into a bureaucracy that seems interested only in perpetuating itself, not serving the community. Maybe they should offer the option of letting the flag football program use the $39 million football stadium at the high school that we all paid for. The misuse of these public facilities really needs to be called into question, as much as the arrogance of imposing their will on this community.

Transparent Jun 21, 2022 11:27 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Once again, the school district is failing to be a positive collaborator with other public entities, whether it be city or non-profit or otherwise. They don't need the money, so from an admin's perspective it's just work and hassle. For all the signalling about "community engagement," the rubber isn't meeting the road. The only tool that sometimes works is public shaming... hence this op-ed apparently.... I hope it works in this case.

Get back to the table and figure out something that works. That's the community's space there under your charge to manage... manage it for public good already! Our kids need arts, yes, and also exercise!

sblocal1967 Jun 21, 2022 10:07 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

This is just another example of liberal bureaucrats finding reasons to shut down something that is successful and benefits kids. 100% Lame. I truly hope enough support is gathered to change this incredibly stupid decision.

sacjon Jun 23, 2022 01:47 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Not to mention which side of the isle truly doesn't give a rat's about kids - allowing school shootings to go on, constantly shutting down attempts at more funding for public schools, welfare programs, universal childcare, etc..... Yeah, it's us liberals who don't care about kids lol!

fitz Jun 21, 2022 06:01 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

As a grandparent of a flag footballer, I am saddened to hear this. We drove 50 miles to see our grandson play one Friday night. What an experience. Hundreds of families having a great time, win or lose. And all I could do was look up into the hills as darkness descended and think, this is Paradise. Please, SBUSD, override this bad decision and as others have said, make kids our priority.

Lina24 Jun 21, 2022 05:52 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Children's programs should take precedence where Schools are concerned. Our votes to approve higher taxes for schools are because they are supposed to enrich the lives of children! The outgoing Principal should have recused herself from making that terrible decision considering her major conflict of interest. Shame on her for not putting the kids first!! That lot across the street should definitely be opened for parking, too! I hope they start a petition about this and mention it on Edhat. I'll be the first to sign!!

Basicinfo805 Jun 21, 2022 04:51 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

FNL is a fantastic organization. They literally get hundreds of kids outside running around several times a week. The fact that they’re getting shafted by the SB School District is shameful. Apparently the District doesn’t value youth exercise, sports, and competition. Looks like they prefer to keep their (our) SBJH parking lots clear for the theater patrons. Really? Wow. I wish I were surprised by this but I’m not. The players in power in our local education system are flailing hard. I’m talking to you Maldonado, Becchio, Curry, and the entire SB School Board. Tell me I’m wrong here?

JILLONTHEHILL Jun 21, 2022 10:09 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

I'm sorry you have that perspective 9:45. When my kids were young they participated in both sports and the theatre. And they loved both! It seems sad to me that this community can't handle both types of youth activities. It's also very sad that you're filled with so much hostility towards kids running around outdoors.

a-1655873130 Jun 21, 2022 09:45 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Yeah, if the kids went to a play or other presentation in the theater, they might actually learn something, when instead they could just run around and learn nothing except how sports promoters are generally poor sportsmen.

Lina24 Jun 21, 2022 06:01 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Basic, you're absolutely right! It's downright shameful. Thanks for stepping up and talking to the powers that be about this. Hope they reverse this terrible decision asap! If they don't, then maybe a petition would convince them.

Babycakes Jun 21, 2022 03:26 PM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

Big deal, there is a conflict Simple Fixes:
- Choose a different location
- Choose a different night
- Change games to the daytime
- Put nightlights up at Chase Palm Park
- See if SBCC is willing to work something out
- SBHS has a new field....lights....parking....same with SMHS an DP
- Move to the Polo Fields

C'mon peeps...get creative.....SBJHS is not the only place these games can be played....where there's a will, there is a way!

sacjon Jun 22, 2022 11:37 AM
Op-Ed: Over 600 Local Kids Denied Field Space for Flag Football

BABYCAKES - yeah, they used to play at Pershing (by SBCC) and sometimes used the field at Dwight Murphy for extra games. I wonder why the city/SBCC won't let them use it anymore? It was perfect. Plenty of parking and lights and space! I wonder why that ended?

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