The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 17, 2013

Independence parents ask for tennis court

By Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporter

— Two Independence High School parents on Tuesday asked the Raleigh County Board of Education for help in building four new tennis courts at the high school in time for the 2013-2014 school year.

The IHS tennis team recently competed in the Class AA/A State Championship tennis tournaments in Charleston, but there is no adequate tennis court at IHS for students to practice or host home matches. The two courts at the school are in disrepair.

Currently, the BOE rents the tennis courts at New River Park in Beckley for IHS use.

R.D. Tolliver, father of two current IHS tennis players, asked the BOE to build the courts.

“We’re quite proud of our student athletes,” Tolliver told members at the Tuesday board meeting. “This year, they sent three doubles teams to the state tournament, and five individuals in the state championship this last weekend.

“We’re really the only school in Raleigh County that does not have the facility tennis courts at our high school,” Tolliver said. “We think that creates an appearance our kids are being discriminated against.”

Four courts are needed to host a tennis competition.

Travel to the park for matches and practice creates serious concerns for parents, coaches and staff, Tolliver said.

“Our students have to travel daily,” he said. “The teams that come to play us ... some travel for over an hour. When they get there, there are no restroom facilities. They have to go to a restaurant down the street, and we don’t really feel that porta-potties would be the answer.”

Because the courts at the park are public, Tolliver said, safety is a concern.

“We can’t keep anybody out,” he said. “Everybody and anybody can show up. Our students have been subject to all kinds of foul language, illegal drug use, intoxicated individuals, and our female students have been verbally harassed.

“We play till dark,” he added. “This places all our boys and girls, our student athletes’ parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents in danger.”

William Fletcher, another IHS father and retired employee of the federal Bureau of Prisons, said he also was concerned about the safety of the school tennis players.

“At the last match (at the park) there was a lot of commotion and foul language, and I happened to look around,” Fletcher said.

“One of the biggest loudmouths ... was an ex-inmate I’d had at the federal prison. I wanted to get up and say something to him like I do at the prison, and I realized there was no authority,” he said. “So we had to sit there and put up with it.”

Tolliver told board members that IHS parents are willing “to work to help get our funding.”

“We’ll do what we need to do,” he said.

BOE President Rick Snuffer appeared sympathetic to concerns raised by parents but said various football and baseball fields around the county need repair, as well as other athletic complexes.

“It is impossible for us financially to build everything we need in this county,” he said.

He said that while the funding from the state — which makes up 80 percent of the local budget — makes no specific allocation for athletic complexes, local school boards may use levy monies to build athletic venues.

He urged IHS parents to support an upcoming educational levy being sought in the county and to begin raising community funding, donated materials and volunteer labor to help the BOE pay for the courts.

“It’s almost impossible without local support from boosters,” he added.

Snuffer pointed to Liberty High School as a possible model for the Independence community to follow.

“I was amazed at the local input Liberty was able to get, and we ended up with a very nice facility down there,” he said. “It still cost us a lot of money, but they had a lot of skin in the game at the end of it.”

He said the BOE would “look at what funds we have available and see what we can do” once the community begins fundraising for the requested courts.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com