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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016: Yonkers volleyball team was left scrambling once again

   Leading off today: If you want the formula for how not to instill confidence and create stability in a sports program, this is a good (bad?) place to start.

   The Journal News reports that the Yonkers girls volleyball program recently was without a head coach just days before the preseason ... for the third consecutive year.

   The lack of continuity began when Alicia Murray coached the 2013 season and informed the administration the following spring that she would not be coming back. The last-minute hire of Christine Crowley delayed the Bulldogs' start to the 2014 season by two weeks, to say nothing of what the effect was on offseason training.

   With prospects for a teaching position at Yonkers unsettled and commutes from Long Island wearing on her, Crowley informed players on Aug. 10, 2015, that she would not return that fall. Four days later, Crowley was brought back into the fold and preseason practice began two days after that.

   And then this season spiraled into lather/rinse/repeat on Aug. 16 when Yonkers players were informed that Crowley would not be returning.

   And just days later Murray reappeared to run the show once more after "quite a few phone calls" from Yonkers administrators, the paper reported. Players were said to be on the verge of tears when Murray emerged through the gymnasium doors.

   "The story may have a happy ending," reporter Mike Zacchio wrote, "but it doesn't make up for the confusion and disappointment the girls had to put up with the last three years. They deserved better."

   Observation: The Yonkers situation is extreme, but not particularly unusual. There are a few sports programs around the state that are on their fourth varsity coach in five seasons.

   The Yonkers administration certainly has to be held accountable to some degree for what's taken place in volleyball, but don't be tempted to lay it all on those in charge of the school district. While some administration decisions have surely contributed to the problem, the financial picture in most of the state's large public-school districts is horrendous. It leads to budgeting decisions and resource allocation (including staffing decisions) being taken right down to the wire, causing districts to lose good people to more stable environments.

   Consider these nuggets from a recent Gannett News Service examination of the flawed formula for distributing state educational aid:

    • Yonkers is categorized as an average-wealth district because of the higher-than-average property values in Westchester County, so it gets only $11,000 per pupil in annual state aid -- probably at least 50 percent below what it should really get because of the limitations of its tax base.

    • Poorer districts like Buffalo and Rochester are reimbursed at least 95 percent of their building and renovation costs by the state. Yonkers, which has numerous schools in need of immediate work, is only eligible for 70 percent reimbursement.

   "When you get down to the end, it's really a 50 percent reimbursement," Mayor Mike Spano said. "For this city to repair all its schools, I would have to go out and bond in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

   Transactions: A couple of reporters have announced job changes in the past few days. football site

   Dean Russin, sports editor at The Daily Star in Oneonta (frequently helping us on matters large and small at the New York State Sportswriters Association), is leaving after 17 years to join the sports department at the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin this week.

   Pending the hiring of a replacement, reporter Steve Derderian will be holding things together back in Oneonta as the new school year starts up.

   Meanwhile, D.J. Eberle posted on social media that he's leaving The Saratogian for a job at the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

   Dorm unveiled: In Rochester, Bishop Kearney officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week for the Selects Academy girls residence hall, which is located in the school building.

   The Selects Academy will bring elite youth players from around the world to live and learn at Bishop Kearney while competing in girls hockey.

   The school's third-floor space that housed faculty and staff until about 20 years ago is modeled after a college dorm with more than 40 student rooms, a kitchen, fitness room and lounges.

   Progress report: Paul Hutzler has finished the enormous annual task of updating our New York high school football record book. He supplied us with the new files last week.

   We've now updated all of the individual records categories in the reference section. The handful of team categories, including fixes to the lists for unbeaten streaks and the compilation of unbeaten/unscored upon seasons, will be handled in the next day or so.

   Extra points: Mahopac AD John Augusta, who'd already been filling in over the summer, is now officially the interim principal at the high school following the promotion of Adam Pease to assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction and professional development. The school board intends to appoint an interim athletic director for the 2016-17 school year.

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