From Leo M. Bulavko, Secretary, Save Harford County Swimming:
The first of several Board of Education public meetings devoted to discussions regarding the Harford County Public School budget for Fiscal Year 2018 took place at the A.A. Roberty Building in Bel Air on January 4th.
As has been commonplace for nearly 6 months, much of the meeting ended up being focused on the Superintendent’s proposals to defund swimming pools and swim programs in HCPS facilities. A capacity crowd filled the meeting room last night and waited restlessly while the HCPS budget team and administrators summarized various expenditures and cuts – a nervous murmur filled the room as the defunding of swimming was mentioned by HCPS Director of Budget Eric Clark. Tensions rose again as Student Member of the Board Amanda Dorsey inquired of Mr. Clark, as well as of Chief of Administration Joseph Licata, what the cost would be to close the pools — neither Clark or Licata could provide an answer, nor how the proposed pool closure would be budgeted.
Then came the time for public comments, and a parade of parents and swimmers took to the podium to rail against Superintendent Barbara Canavan’s proposed budget cuts to the swimming pools and programs. One after another, parents and swimmers rose up against the proposed cuts — a retired teacher saying that swimming was viewed as a “sacrificial lamb,” while other sports remain unscathed; a single parent new to Harford County talking about how she sacrifices financially in order to meet the “pay to play” fee, so her daughter can swim for Edgewood High School; and many other swimmers and parents talking of what swimming, and having access to swimming pools, means to them.
In what probably was the emotional moment of the night, Josh Bulavko, co-captain of the Edgewood Rams swim team and president of Save Harford County Swimming, came forward with Japhil Bauthorne, a Rams teammate. After an passionate plea to restore swimming to the budget, Bulavko turned the podium over to Japhil. Bauthorne, who in his remarks said he was autistic and “socially awkward,” found his voice and spoke of how his teammates were more than friends — they’re family — and pled with the Board to do the right thing and save swimming. At the end of Japhil’s remarks, the spectators in the crowded meeting room burst into applause.
Perhaps the evening can be summed up in one simple comment posted on social media by the Edgewood Rams swim coach, “My amazing kids!”
Leo M. Bulavko
Save Harford County Swimming