Guest Commentary, Thomas Newton: Celebrating success in the face of facility challenges

As principal of Monterey High School it gives me great pleasure to congratulate our girls softball and boys baseball teams. The boys recently became Central Coast Section Division III champions, and our girls became CCS Division II champions and took home the NorCal Division IV title this year, becoming only the third team in any sport in county history to win a NorCal championship.

I have long believed that a strong athletics education and program are an integral aspect of a thriving school community. Academic research consistently demonstrates students who are involved in athletics outperform their peers in the classroom. I am extremely proud of our student-athletes, the coaches that give of themselves and the Green Machine community for their support. Along with an internationally recognized academic curriculum and one of the best arts education programs in the state, our thriving athletics program continues to make Monterey High School second to none in Monterey County.

What makes these accomplishments even more remarkable is that our student-athletes surpass expectations while using substandard athletic facilities. In 2019, the MPUSD proposed making desperately needed investments to renovate Dan Albert Stadium, create a new lower softball and multi-use practice field, and construct a new strength and conditioning center. Unfortunately, three years later, the proposed improvements are still held up by a lawsuit from a group of neighbors called “Preserving the Peace” who have weaponized the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in an attempt to preserve their own privilege at the expense of our students’ well-being.

As a result of the lawsuit, the nearly 1,400 Monterey High students continue to share one athletic field for all sports programs along with the physical education department. Students are forced to learn strength and conditioning principles and lift weights in a converted facilities shed on campus, the girls and boys soccer programs are forced to end practices and games early due to darkness, and, in the case of our CCS and NorCal champion softball team, student-athletes continue to walk a mile to practice and play games at a city-owned facility off-campus. As we celebrate our softball team’s historic accomplishments, it is hard not to feel as though our students have been robbed — especially our seniors who have now graduated without ever playing a single home game on campus in front of their family, friends, and classmates.

I can confirm that though the last two years have been hard for all of us, they have been especially difficult on our students. Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. Student anxiety, depression, drug abuse and suicidal ideation has skyrocketed and yet another mass shooting at a school, as well as recent teen deaths in our Peninsula community due to fentanyl overdoses, have only exasperated the mental health challenges our youth are facing locally. We must show our support to our students, demonstrating how much we care, by investing in their future on campus.

Despite the difficulty of the pandemic, Monterey High student-athletes have shined bright. Their perseverance serves as a model for all of us during these challenging times. Watching them compete, support teammates, and celebrate each other’s success has given our school hope, and the Monterey community should do everything in its power to support them. Join me in rejecting the efforts of the few to steal opportunities and education from our kids, and celebrate our student athletes’ tremendous accomplishments and future. They need and deserve our support now more than ever. GO DORES!

Contributed by local news sources

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