The most prolific rusher in the history of Mansfield Senior High School football was praised for more than his gridiron records during Wednesday’s board of education meeting.
Senior Brian Benson received a plaque from the board which details the lengthy list of his football achievements. Senior High’s all-time single-season and career rushing leader scored 60 touchdowns as a Tyger and was named to the 2016 Associated Press Division II All-Ohio First Team.
Benson’s character took center stage too. “Brian is an avid leader in the community, in school and in his church,” said board member Gary Feagin. “I can’t come up with enough adjectives to describe him,” said head football coach Chioke Bradley.
Former basketball coach Effie James added, “Brian is an awesome kid. He’s an awesome young man even if he didn’t play football.” James was on hand at the meeting in the Senior High auditorium to present a proposal titled Academic Success for Athletes Program (A.S.A.P.). Its mission would be to ensure that 100 percent of student athletes are academically qualified for acceptance to public and private colleges or universities and to accept offered scholarships based on their athletic and academic performance. James said the mission also would be to raise the percentage of college-bound seniors by at least 30 percent.
“Athletes create the culture in a school. You won’t find any more influential students than athletes,” he said. James said the program would include all athletes in grades eight through 12. A paid director and volunteers would provide a variety of services, including academic tutoring and assisting students and parents with financial aid paperwork and planning. “We want to start with early intervention and get them into the right classes. We need more early intervention,” James said.
The A.S.A.P. proposal includes paid staff members and volunteers at a projected annual cost of $63,500. The board took no action. President Renda Cline said James was making only an initial presentation.
In other action Ms. Cline addressed discussion at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting by reaffirming the board’s respect for the flag, the National Anthem and the sacrifices of men and women who have served in the military. She cited board policy in regard to student rights and the Ohio Revised Code and said court rulings are clear that students cannot be compelled to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance or National Anthem.
Board member Sheryl Weber said the board and district educators have always encouraged students to respect the flag and all of those who have served, and died, to protect it. She cited Veterans Day programs in the schools. “I would like to see us move on and concentrate on the good things – a lot of good things – going on in the district,” Mrs. Weber said. Board member Chris Elswick contended there is nothing in the law to prohibit the board from requiring all students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem. Students don’t have to recite, he said, but they should be required to stand out of respect
Ms. Cline said the board’s attorney has advised that case law makes it clear that students cannot be compelled to stand. Elswick disagreed and said he would like to see such case law.
The board set its 2017 organizational meeting for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 3 at the Raemelton administration building.