School Board President Seeks Equal Playing Field for HHS Softball Team

Haverhill School Committee President Gail M. Sullivan is one of the panelists. (WHAV News photograph.)

School Committee President Gail Sullivan

The chairman and president of the Haverhill School Committee engaged in a lighthearted battle of the sexes at Thursday night’s meeting during a discussion of equity among high school athletic teams.

When committee President Gail M. Sullivan requested an update on plans for a field for the HHS softball team that would be comparable to the baseball diamond that the boys team plays on inside Trinity Stadium, Mayor James J. Fiorentini denied there is a dedicated field for boys or girls.

“There is no facility reserved for boys in this city,” Fiorentini said. “Well, thank you for ‘mansplaining that,” Sullivan responded, pointing out that Fiorentini also interrupted before she was finished speaking.

“How many girls play on the baseball field” inside the stadium, Sullivan asked.

“None,” Superintendent James F. Scully said.

“Boys are currently playing baseball and girls are currently playing softball,” Sullivan said.  “Thank you for ‘womansplaining’ that to me,” Fiorentini interjected. “And thank you for interrupting me again,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan raised the issue in response to a letter written in May 2016 by parents and guardians of HHS softball team members concerned that the girls play on a field in Riverside Park, while the high school baseball team plays on a state-of-the-art field inside the stadium. In the letter addressed to the mayor, City Council and School Committee, they wrote that the situation presents “glaring equity issues.”

“The baseball team uses the top of the line turf, full bullpen and batting cages, complete and clean dugouts, accessible locker rooms, storage space, permanent fencing, and necessary equipment. The softball field has none of these, resulting in several Merrimack Valley Conference coaches complaining they do not want to play us on our field,” the letter reads.

They asked that a comparable playing field be built on the Haverhill High School campus.

“Since it’s budget season and in two weeks we start budget sessions, is there any proposal to do anything about that,” Sullivan asked.

Scully said he has asked Athletic Director Tom O’Brien to look at the situation and come up with suggestions.

Fiorentini pointed out that building a new field would cost as much as $700,000, money that could be spent on improvements to school buildings.


6 thoughts on “School Board President Seeks Equal Playing Field for HHS Softball Team

  1. There is more inequity than just the field that games are played on. My daughter played softball at Haverhill High for four years and the baseball team not only had a better field for games but received preferential treatment for indoor practice; i.e they practiced in the high school gym and the softball team practiced in the pool weight room with a leaky roof. There is extreme inequity between girls and boys sports at Haverhill High. I hope these Parents engage the community, alumni of Haverhill High and alumni of the girls softball team!

  2. I certainly can’t disagree with her thoughts on the matter. The key to good student achievement is good pay levels for all school employees including custodians, cafeteria employees teachers and aides, as well as administration. All of this leads to happy students which results in excellent student achievement The girls playing softball on a nicely groomed field will also certainly lead to better achievement by those participating as well as their fellow students that attend their games. Our school system under the leadership of Mr. Scully has indicted a strong desire to achieve student achievement goals.

  3. There is a huge disparity between the boys and girls athletic teams in terms of the facilities and equipment. To say otherwise is a lie. Title IX is enacted for a reason. I hope the HHS parents keep pushing this and get those girls the field they deserve.