A Win-Win: Lion Coaches Back Middle School Option

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It is probably not surprising that the head coaches of three of the main sports at Cannon County High School are in favor of a middle school for the county.

However, Lionette basketball coach Michael Dodgen, Lion hoop coach Matt Rigsby and Lion football coach Joel Schrenk also know their main role at the school is that of an educator, and they each feel a middle school would help improve the academic achievement of students.

Cannon County Schools is in the process of formulating a plan to present to the public about whether a middle school should be incorporated into the system.

Touted as one of the benefits of having a middle school is that it would help the athletic teams at CCHS compete at a higher level. CCHS coaches also believe it would help student-athletes in all aspects of their scholastic experience.

“As an educator I feel that the middle school possibility is a great stepping stone to help improve our academics from the standpoint of getting the students ready for the changes of high school level academics and offering more academics related to content to these kids,” Dodgen, who is also the school’s athletic director, said.

Dodgen is also convinced a middle school would help his Lionettes achieve greater success at the regional and statewide levels of competition.

“In my judgment and thoughts a middle school would really help with every aspect of athletics from the competition level all the way to skill development,” Dodgen said. “In our district now every school except for us has middle school programs who compete against other teams in this district and state wide, it gives you a gauge as a coach to see where your program stands playing these schools year in and year out.

“Also from a coaching standpoint it eliminates the rivalries from the athletes and parents standpoint of where their children play grammar school basketball and then when they come to Cannon County High School they have to work and play together on one solid team. The thought of a middle school athletic program is a great opportunity for our athletic programs here at Cannon County High School.”

If Cannon County does go to a system with a middle school, it would likely be for grades six through eight. The current system has students in those grades attending one of seven elementary school before advancing to the high school, which is grades nine through 12.

A middle school is the ideal situation for academics and athletics, said Lion basketball coach Rigsby, who listed the following reasons:


• Players learn how to play together beginning their sixth grade year vs. ninth grade year (team cohesion).

• Allow for players to learn my system of play earlier.

• A middle school head coach can teach the system of the high school head coach.

• Face outside competition! If it wasn’t for my AAU program now, kids would only play each other at the elementary school levels, and never experience traveling to play other programs.

• 6th-8th grade kids should play and practice on a regulation size basketball floor, rather than have their skill set, and space for added practice, limited because of the smaller elementary school gyms.

• All 19 teams on our basketball schedule from last year have a system where a middle school is in place for thier players.

• An opportunity for your future players to all be together to initiate a strength and conditioning program.


• Instead of having to input six different Science labs for six different schools, a centralized building with one exceptional lab would be more feasible.

• Kids will learn to socially adjust to each other, and the diversity in a classroom at an earlier age, which would limit discipline issues on the high school level.

• Middle school students would benefit at the high school level by experiencing a high school environment (lockers, class changes, etc)

• Endorsed teachers in specific content areas to add a specialized degree to teach state standards.

Schrenk, who next year will begin his second season at the helm of the CCHS football program, has already been involved in a situation where a school system converted to the middle school alignment, and benefits to the high school football program were evident.

“When I was very young in my coaching career the school (system) I worked at did not have middle school football. When the middle schools started playing football we noticed immediately a change in our ninth graders. They know more football, were tougher, and more mature. It was a tremendous help to the JV and Varsity to have those kids playing in middle school as opposed to playing Jr pro,” Schrenk said.

“The second thing that was important is that they (the middle school program) were running our stuff with our terminology. That was very important because it took us less time teaching them the basics because they already knew what we were going to do. Middle school football was a HUGE asset to the high school program.

“I also know that those same kids that came from middle school football were much more adapted to high school academics. One of the reasons was they were already dealing with coaches and passing classes to remain eligible. They were more mature and respectful. They were familiar with lockers, class changes, teacher changes and most importantly, time management. It also helped with discipline in the middle schools because football could be use as a ‘carrot’ so to speak to help out that athlete who was having trouble both socially and academically.”

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April 27, 2010 at 6:29am
I am so glad to see at least the beginings of a middle school program. I know it is in the enfintile stages right now, but at least we are talking about it which is more than we have been doing in the past.

This actually should have been done prior to the building of Woodbury Grammar School, but everyone was obsessed at the time with worrying about grammar school basketball games that no one could see the benefits of a middle school. Having said that, it is now time to move on and focus more on education than Westside playing Woodland in a county basketball tournament.

One thing most people don't want to talk about is the outlying schools. Auburntown and Short Mountain for example have just over 100 kids in K thru 8th grades. Removing the 6th, 7th and 8th grades and putting them in a middle school now drops that number to approximately 75 or less. So does it make sense to keep those schools open and pay the cost of upkeeping a school with 75 kids? At what point do we stop holding on to purely tradition and move into the 21st century?

Why not build a new high school, use the Woodbury Grammar school for a middle school and use the old High School to house all of the county's K through 5th grades? This would elminate costs, create the cohesiveness everyone wants, utilize the school systems better and the kids would be better off in the long run because they would get a better EDUCATION which is what they are there for in the first place.
April 27, 2010 at 10:31am
Not to mention we could still have Elementary School Basketball Programs for 4th and 5th graders. This would still protect the community's games,and allow for the schools to make money from gates and concessions on Thursday nights.
April 27, 2010 at 11:41am
Eastside has a low number of students also, but when looking a testing scores the smaller schools actually perform better than the larger schools. I'm not sure if athletics
should be the primary reason for a middle school.

Another concern in the tough economic times can Cannon County taxpayers afford to pay for a new school, but if it does happen maybe the high school should be turned into the middle school and a new high school be build since overcrowding has been a issue for years.
April 27, 2010 at 12:48pm
We see that test scores are higher in the small schools and yet we still want a middle school?? What are we here for--Academics or Athletics? Come on! Besides,are you just going to let the small schools run down? Nobody will buy them!
April 27, 2010 at 1:16pm
I , as a parent, dont want the middle school, and I sure dont want 1 huge elementary school! But thats JMO
April 27, 2010 at 4:02pm
With the student /student ratio at 13.8 to 1 at some of the elem. schools and as low as 11.4 to 1 at short mt. it dosen't make since to keep all of the elem. up and running!All of them were built 40 to 50 years ago and designed to be heated with coal and now we are paying the utility bills to heat and cool these VERY ineficient buildings,not to mention the labor and upkeep to maintain these outdated structures. It is obvious that the teachers would not want a middle school or heaven forbid shut down some of the elem. schools , they would be out of a job . I would like to see an non biased fesibility study done on the savings in labor cost and utilities,maintanance cost on a new consolidated school system versus what we have now.Like"billy 37190" said "lets move into the 21st century, we need to run the school system like a business because like it or not that is what it is!
April 27, 2010 at 4:21pm
Please do not misinterpet what I am saying below. I DO NOT want a middle school for atheletic reason. I want a middle school for EDUCATION reasons.

Test score would increase if you use the plan I outlined below because you have more and better facilities to use, the bigger rooms allow for more hands on participation and you have the same amount of students per room as you currently have because the teachers also go when the students go.

When you move everyone together, you reduce waste, reduce electricity, reduce maintenance, reduce overall costs and create a better environment for the kids!
April 27, 2010 at 6:36pm
Consider this--with increased numbers comes increased discipline problems, drugs, guns in school...etc. Do parents really want this? Is it really worth it?
April 27, 2010 at 6:43pm
Lucydog doesn't seem too non biased with her opinion. For one Short Mtn has been mentioned twice by her and Billy37190. Actually last I heard Auburntown and Eastside are actually smaller than Short Mtn. but that is not the point, the teachers at those schools would still be needed if a middle school was built. The fact of the matter is that smaller schools have higher test scores and have lower discipline issues. Academics not athletics should be primary concern. Many updates have been made to the schools over the years including central heat and air. There is very little revenue coming into Cannon County and many people are out of jobs and have trouble paying wheel taxes and land taxes so how are the citizens going to pay for a new school? I would like to see a comparison of school systems with K-8 schools and systems with middle schools to see the difference in test scores before a costly decision is made.
April 27, 2010 at 10:41pm
this county should have had a middle school already. And like it or not athletics are a part of the school system and that is a good thing. Its ok to want our athletic program to at a higher level as well as academic levels raised. A middle school would be an advantage for a small community such as ours.
April 28, 2010 at 7:34pm
Common sense should tell everyone that Cannon County needs a middle school. I agree with Billy37190 in the reduction of the maintenance and upkeep of the smaller schools in the county alone would be a benefit we can't pass up.

Seems to me that if you eliminate Westside, Woodland, Short Mountain and Eastside then you would almost have enough to pay for a new school.

Does anyone reading this (including the teachers) actually think Cannon County is so big that we need FIVE different schools plus a High School? Seriously, do you think that or are you simply trying to hold on to the tradition? We all have cars now, so the need for those outlying schools has diminished since 1955. Get real and wake up.

Also for most of the teachers, we are not blind on the reason you don't want a middle school. Why would the principal of Eastside or Westside or Woodbury want to have to go teach instead of be a principal?

At the end of the day, you still would have the same size classrooms per capita of kids, so MOST (not all) of the teachers reasons for saying no to a middle school are simply selfish.
May 03, 2010 at 5:39pm
I think its about time Cannon County get out of the past into the future. For the future of Cannon County children!! Not the past of Cannon County!!!!!
May 08, 2010 at 6:57am
"Touted as one of the benefits of having a middle school is that it would help the athletic teams at CCHS compete at a higher level."

Just one problem guys. The schools in CC do not exist solely to be farm clubs for the high school. The main reason for their existence is to educate. That's why they call athletics extracurricular activities.
And to the one who said "common sense" should decide in favor of a middle school... This decision should be based on what's best educationally and economically for the citizens of Cannon County. There have been some good points both for and against the proposa made in this forum, and they should be weighed intelligenty, leaving out the rancor and name calling. Several scenarios should be weighed, some of them perhaps objectionable to certain individuals and communities, but with the intent that we want to provide the children of the county with the best education we can afford to give.
All that being said, I'll weigh in with my one concern. We've put all this money into the elementary schools' additions fairly recently. It seems to me it would be a waste to totally abandon them at this point, and I believe they should be included in any plan we move forward with. Please don't think this means I oppose the middle school. I was, in fact, in favor of building the middle school instead of adding to the elementary schools years ago. I just hate throwing good money (the additions) away so soon.

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