Hills Gymnastics Moves Out of HHH

Gymnasts leave district after school board is unresponsive to student pleas.

Parents say that their children’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears after the Half Hollow Hills Board of Education did not respond to more than 30 young gymnasts who begged school officials to allow their program to remain in the district last month. 

After 40 years of Hills Gymnastics, a non-profit athletic program held at , the Board of Education told Director Marissa Wharry in that the equipment could longer be stored in the gym because of an insurance liability. In a , students and graduates of Hills Gymnastics spoke at the Board of Education meeting in October, talking about the importance of the workshop in their lives and asked the board to help come to a compromise that would fall within the insurance guidelines. 

More than two weeks later, neither parents nor students, have received a response.

“I think it was a mixture of hurt, disappointment and betrayal that our school system would oust such an amazing program and not be willing to respond or work with us,” Linda Matthies, a mother of two daughters in the workshop, said.

The board originally offered to keep the items in an outdoor bin, but would require the girls, some as young as 4 years of age, to move the heavy mats and beams in and out of the gym each night. It would also subject the equipment to rust and mold, Wharry said.

Hills Gymnastics is not an official school activity, but since the district does not have a junior varsity team, it is the main stepping-stone the student gymnasts employ so that they are able to compete on the high school level.

Maggie Springall, whose children participate in the program, presented several options to the board that might help to lessen the insurance liability such as a sign telling students not to climb on the mats or using a space divider, which is used in other schools. The board did not respond to her suggestions.

“We never heard back from the school district - none of the parents, nobody. I find it very disheartening. I feel like they were just hoping we would go away,” Wharry said.

With competition season starting up and no place to practice within the school district, Hills Gymnastics has moved to a new location on Brook Avenue in Deer Park.

“It’s very, very tiny and barely fits the equipment, but we’ll make it fit because it’s a place and at a reasonable price,” Wharry said.

Since the program is non-profit, the affordability was a big draw for families who otherwise could not afford to put their children into what is typically a costly sport.

The price of the program will slightly increase since the workshop must now rent the space to practice. Wharry said that she and her daughter, who helps run the program, have not taken a salary yet to help alleviate the cost burden.

“This is a sacrifice I’m willing to make because it’s about them,” Wharry said.

The workshop has also been cut down from two lessons to one since it is sharing the space.

“It’s shameful that they can get away with not even responding,” Wharry said. “To not respond to the parents makes me feel like that’s how they’re getting away with it.”

Bob November 03, 2011 at 08:01 PM
It is insulting to EVERY member of this community that the School Board has not provided the students and resident taxpayers the courtesy of a response. While that is today's "new norm" in behavior for local politicians, it is unprofessional and unacceptable, and will be remembered come budget and election time.
Richard November 04, 2011 at 02:28 AM
I find it disgusting that our school board that we the voters elected can treat the people that put them in their positions the way they are. I can tell you one thing.....I will think long and hard about voting in our next school board. My children and the children of this district deserve a school board that's looking out for them! Our current school board is disgraceful !!!! SHAME ON YOU MRS. BOTTENUS AND THE REST OF THE SCHOOL BOARD!!!
Robert November 05, 2011 at 01:41 AM
After all the efforts of those parents and those kids, who I am told waited almost two hours to be heard, it is nothing short of a insult to receive no response. If this is the best that the Half Hollow Hills School Board has to offer it is Definately Not good enough! Shape up or be shipped out, our community will not forget this faux pas any time soon! And to all you parents in this community, Be on the lookout Your kids Program could be the next victim!!!!!
Keith November 05, 2011 at 12:31 PM
This is a pathetic display on the part of the School Board, what kind of leadership does our community follow? It appears that when the proper procedure is applied that the best you can expect is no response, the worst absolutely no help! I applaud the efforts of the people in Half Hollow Hills Gymnastics and I'm glad to see that they didn't just dissolve when met with adversity! I wish you success in the future. As for the community, one more stone has been removed from our foundation!
John November 05, 2011 at 06:12 PM
The School Board has chosen to alienate all those involved with Half Hollow Hills Gymnastics but what is even worse is that they preferred to have it put on display for the rest of us to see rather than entertaining the option of working towards a mutually beneficial solution. This is discouraging to say the least from the leaders of our community! Good luck to the girls and their families!
Tayler November 06, 2011 at 04:06 PM
The School Board should have made an aggressive effort to save this program and maintain it's placement within the community! If it was impossible to do so at the very least they should have given ample time for it's relocation to ensure it's ability to continue service to this community! The community and it's childrens needs are supposed to be a priority to the School Board & that includes an intelligible response to a community request!!! The leaders of Half Hollow Hills Gymnastics are fulfilling their obligation to the children and the community,What a shame our own School Board does't see fit to do so! Good Luck Half Hollow Hills Gymnastics ,may you experience continued success!
Norm November 07, 2011 at 02:28 AM
We should all expect more from a School Board than these stonewall tactics! Who is responsible to who here? Are we all here to perpetuate their agendas? I thought they were here to serve the communities best interests, well if we go by this example they definately did NOT look out for these kids or their families! My deepest apology to Half Hollow Hills Gymnastics, the children, and parents who have been displaced, our community should have taken better care to look out for it's own! We must all be more watchful that this does not become the trend our kids deserve better!
Marc November 07, 2011 at 07:01 PM
I am bewildered that more people don't have a serious problem with this! How is it ok for the School Board to dismiss these kids along with an organization that has functioned beautifully in our district for almost 40 years!!! I'm sorry it's also ok NOT to respond to pleas for assistance...I am so glad that I am not in desperate need of the School Boards help. I would love to hear more people speak up...we could all be next on the "HIT LIST"
Julia November 08, 2011 at 05:56 PM
This is way out of control, what does the School Board have to gain by getting rid of this program and giving the participants the royal brush off? I am very interested to know what is going to be occupying that gym space in place of Half Hollow Hills Gymnastics? Was this situation thought all the way through! Are we dismissing those girls so a perfectly good gym can remain empty? The School Board should provide a response to EVERYONE in this community!!
Robert November 17, 2011 at 02:58 PM
I just read a terrific article about the varsity team taking second in the county.The coach made a wonderful point about the girls needing a solid starting place to be eligible to qualify or compete with the varsity team. What a shame our School Board chose to eliminate this program which gave our students that wonderful opportunity!
Kristine Fusaro March 01, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Ya i agree. im part of the team and its really hard trying to find a new place


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