Texas School Buying "Smurf Turf" Football Field; Superintendent Speaks to Criticisms

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West Texas's Canutillo Independent School District hasn't been bringing in much green of late, so they've decided to sing the $350,000 blues.

Last week, the CISD Board of Trustees approved the installation of a "smurf turf" field that will replace, for "student safety reasons," a green artificial playing surface.

Located approximately 15 miles northwest of El Paso, the town of Canutillo (with an estimated population of 5,500) and its Eagles, who compete in the large 4A division, will boast the only blue football field in West Texas. (Hidalgo High, located near McAllen, currently boasts a navy surface while New Braunfels's Canyon High competes on a neon red pitch.) Playing on a run-of-the-mill green field, last year's Canutillo team finished with a 7-4 record.

Much like the football eccentricity pioneered by Boise State University, Canutillo's field will be swathed, from goal line to goal line, in faux grass that's dyed blue while the end zones will be adorned with University of Texas at El Paso-esque orange. The middle of the field will showcase the school's peeved-off eagle head logo, which is a carbon copy of the Philadelphia Eagles' design.

The question is why would the CISD Board of Trustees approve an expensive field when, in April, they voted to ditch 32 teachers in order to deal with a budget shortfall? "The money that's buying the football field cannot hire teachers," CISD superintendent Dr. Damon Murphy tells Hair Balls. "Period."

According to the 2011 CISD bond program, which was approved on February 16, the replacement turf occupies 12 percent of the $2.9 million that's been earmarked for Canutillo High. Murphy says that the current artificial surface, which has a life span of up to ten years but only lasted six seasons due to maintenance problems, needs updating.

Murphy explains that critics accusing CISD of placing athletics over academics are "uninformed." He points out that bond funds are for brick-and-mortar construction while monies from federal grants and school district budgets are reserved for staff hiring.

In mid-April, the contracts of 32 first-year teachers, who made a collective salary of $1.6 million, were not renewed. However, they've since been rehired after Canutillo residents approved a 13-cent property tax increase in May. As a result, the district was able to re-employ all 32 educators "no thanks to legislatures," says Murphy.

Murphy admits that installing a blue field, which could be complete in time for Canutillo's home opener on August 26, will be a bit more expensive than a traditional green surface but that the project will still come in on budget.

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