Print Community funds Cornville sports
Written by Greg Ruland   
Friday, 09 September 2011 12:00

When Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District voted in June to keep Oak Creek school open for the 2011-2012 school year, it did so on several conditions.

One of those conditions was the withdrawal of funding for Oak Creek athletic programs. At the time, Superintendent Barbara U’Ren said she was counting on parents to step up and organize a sports program for students the district could no longer afford to support.

Oak Creek School seventh-grader Bailey McDonald, left, leads her teammates through warm-up  exercises at volleyball practice on Aug. 30. Thanks to the efforts of parents and boosters led by Janet Burrus and Michelle Miller, sports programs are continuing after funding for athletics was cut by the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District for the Cornville school.Roadrunners parents and coaches responded, forming the Oak Creek School Roadrunner Sports Boosters, according to volleyball coach Janet Burrus.

Surrounded by a noisy corps of female student athletes Sept. 1, Burrus barked instructions and her team got to work, running, stretching and doing drills in preparation for their first match against West Sedona on Thursday, Sept. 8.

It is Burrus’ 25th year as a coach, but the first time she’s been expected to raise her own money and act as her own athletic director.

Burrus and Michelle Miller are two of the most active Oak Creek School Sports Boosters. They organized the team schedule and sign-up, oversee practices and hustle to raise money to keep as many of the school’s extracurricular programs up and running as possible.

Miller is also working to maintain other programs that enrich the educational experience at Oak Creek, including music, physical education and computer lab.

Sports is important for students because it helps them stay healthy, improves self-esteem and motivates them to keep their grades up so they can continue to compete, Burrus said.

“It keeps them doing something instead of walking home to an empty house and watching TV,” she said.

COCSD pledged to match, up to $10,000, every donation the booster club received and Burrus wants to make sure Oak Creek teams get the biggest bang for their buck possible.

“Funds raised will be used to purchase equipment, pay for transportation and registration fees to athletic events and pay for coaches, referees and umpires,” Burrus said.

“These donations will be greatly appreciated and will help us continue the great athletic programs at Oak Creek School,” she said.

The booster club’s goal is to raise $30,000 by December, which will fully fund sports programs for boys and girls through the entire 2011-2012 school year.

Initially, COCSD urged Burrus to organize intramural sports, meaning Roadrunners would be restricted to playing each other. That couldn’t work because there are not enough athletes to fill out more than a single team, Burrus said.

To complicate matters, Burrus lost some of her best athletes when COCSD decided to cut Oak Creek sports. Even though many were trained by Burrus for the last several years, they transferred to Cottonwood Middle School, where the sports program is fully funded.

“I can’t blame the parents,” Burrus said. “They did what they thought was best for their kids.”

That doesn’t mean her Roadrunners won’t be competitive this year, even though Cottonwood Middle School declined to face them on the hardwood this year, she said.