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Medford football games see staffing challenges, misbehavior

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford students cheer at a recent prep football game.
Before Black and Blue Bowl, district didn’t have enough staff to manage ‘some unsafe’ behavior from students, lax parental supervision

A Medford School District official said there’s been “significant improvement” in behavior among students at varsity football games — a positive sign heading into the beloved rivalry game between North and South Medford high schools on Friday, Oct. 29.

Fred Kondziela, assistant director of human resources/district athletics, gave his overall take to the Mail Tribune ahead of the Black and Blue Bowl at 7 p.m. at Spiegelberg Stadium.

“We have parents that are very supportive and we got more people to work the game. It was phenomenal,” Kondziela said. “We’re having to be really creative in getting those things down, but we have managed to increase our staffing by 12 to 15 people at the last couple of games. That is significant.”

Natalie Hurd, communications coordinator for the district, thanked the community for their support.

Their comments came in response to a statement the district released late last week outlining behavioral expectations for future sporting events. The district cited seeing kids in the stadium during varsity football games without parents and “some unsafe behaviors” by youth.

These behaviors include not wearing masks or social distancing, littering, vandalism in the restrooms and attempts to go to unauthorized areas of the stadium.

“Kids are kids,” Kondziela said. “If there’s a situation where we think a kiddo needs a reminder, there's no staff to do that. They’re on the other side of the stadium because we don’t have enough people.”

Lack of staffing at games is at the heart of the issues the district has seen at varsity football games.

“Staffing,” in this case, means a team of adults participating in making a sporting event work, from securing it to concession sales. These officials can include teachers, but also personnel from the Michigan-based EDUStaff, a nationwide staffing agency for schools.

It takes 35 to 40 people to properly staff a game, according to Kondziela. Lately, however, the number of people available to fill those positions has dipped down to below 15.

Beyond student misbehavior, the decrease brings about challenges — from games not being played to a lack of transportation to games for athletes.

“It’s manifesting itself; you can see it at the games … we just don’t have enough staff,” Kondziela said. “It’s a mini picture of what we’re seeing in the valley and across the state.”

To get staffing levels back, the district has offered people $21/hour to work games.

Kondziela said North and South’s athletic directors are “working extremely hard in keeping these opportunities available for kids.”

“We want all of our families and kids to show up because it’s a community event,” he said. “We want this to be a fun experience for families, but we also have to manage it in a safe way.”

Kondziela called the Black and Blue Bowl fun, competitive and highly attended, which is why it needs to be “staffed accordingly.”

He had a message for students and parents ahead of the event.

“Just be thoughtful about following the expectations that have been communicated out, so everybody can have a safe, fun evening,” Kondziela said. “Go Black Tornado, go Panther! That’s what it’s about.”

For the game on Oct. 29, Medford School district asked parents and students to follow these guidelines:

  • Parents are responsible for supervising their children at any age, but students in middle school or below must be accompanied by an adult to enter the stadium.
  • High School students must either have their ID card or be with a parent/guardian to attend games.
  • Spectators must leave items, including backpacks, bikes or toys, at home.
  • No congregating outside of Spiegelberg Stadium is allowed. Students who leave during the middle of the event will not be let back in.
  • Masks are required and social distancing from non-family members is “strongly advised.