Fairfax High School basketball star Jordan Weathers could soon join an illustrious list of players that includes Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James. Weathers has been nominated for this year’s McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Team, and if he makes the final cut, will take part in the 33rd annual All American game this March.
“I feel honored. It’s a big accomplishment in high school basketball,” Weathers said. “Not many people can say they made the high school All American list, so I feel proud of myself.”
Now, Weathers is a star on the Fairfax varsity team, averaging about 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. In 2007, however, when Fairfax won the state title in basketball, Weathers was just a freshman, playing on the junior varsity team.
With Los Angeles City Section, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) high school sports program, targeted for a budget cut of up to $1.4 million, or 20 percent, it’s possible that at some schools junior varsity teams on which players like Weathers can hone their skills will have to be cut.
Steve Zimmer, 4th district LAUSD board member, expressed regret at the potential cuts to the athletic program, but acknowledged that the city had very few alternatives.
“Specifically with arts and athletics, these programs are lifelines for kids,” Zimmer said. “They are literally programs that keep kids hooked in school and I don’t want to cut any of them. But if the governor doesn’t restore revenue that was promised for next year, we’re looking at 150 to 200 million on top of what’s already a 480 million dollar deficit for the school district. I don’t see how any program will be untouched.”
Zimmer stressed the importance of trying to raise revenue for the schools, even if it would not completely offset the budget cuts. He listed an increase in property taxes and partnering with private industry as potential sources of revenue.
“For every concession or cut we’re going to make, the school board is going to force the superintendent to show how he’s trying to raise revenue to equal the cut. I don’t want Regal Cinemas sponsoring our football field, but if it’s going to keep kids on the fields, then I’ll look at that right now.”
Already, Fairfax High School has partnered with outside institutions to help support extra-curricular programs like athletics. This weekend, Fairfax High will host the Fairfax State Preview Classic, a showcase for some of the top teams in Southern California to display their skills for college scouts. The Greenway Arts Alliance, a local nonprofit organization, helped fund the event, now in its second year.
“Our mission is to act as a bridge between a public high school like Fairfax and the surrounding community,” said Pierson Blaezt, co-founder of the Greenway Arts Alliance. “We want to make it easy for businesses and individuals to help the school.”
The Greenway Arts Alliance runs a flea market called the Melrose Trading Post, where students from the high school, including members of the basketball team, can volunteer. In return, the team can ask for funding for events like the basketball showcase.
Blaezt and Zimmer both hope that Greenway can become a model for supporting extracurricular programs. Zimmer noted, however, that the Greenway model may not work everywhere.
“It’s tough to replicate or export a program like Greenway to South or East L.A,” Zimmer said. “They are so committed to Fairfax, and that’s fantastic, but not every community has that.”
If LAUSD is to avoid a devastating hit to any program, Zimmer said, everyone at the school will have to make concessions of some kind.
“There are going to be a lot of difficult conversations,” Zimmer said.
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