Clarion School Board Seeks More Information in Possible Football Co-op with C-L
That seemed to be the overriding consensus of Clarion Area School Board members when it comes to a co-op in football with neighboring Clarion-Limestone.
Whether that is feedback from the student-athletes themselves, information on how a co-op would operate or the cost involved to the school district, the School Board would like more information.
That was the theme of the discussion about the potential co-op at the monthly Clarion School Board meeting Tuesday night in a nearly empty LGI Room at Clarion Junior/Senior High School.
“What are the terms?” Board member Todd Bauer asked. “We need to know what the terms would look like.”
Fellow board member Dave Estadt wanted to know what the timeline would look like, while Melissa Anderson said she wants to know what the kids want.
All of this came after Clarion School Board President Hugh Henry gave a report to the board of what happened at a meeting between representatives of both Clarion and Clarion-Limestone Monday, Nov. 12.
“I thought it (Monday) was a positive conversation,” Henry told his fellow board members. “There was of course thinking out loud, but there is potential to do great things for the students.”
Henry said C-L wants to know if Clarion is willing to have a deeper discussion on the topic of a football co-op and possible co-ops in other sports.
“Do we want to move forward?” Henry asked.
Bauer said it was hard to know if he wanted to move forward without knowing more details, but Henry explained that was what the “deeper discussions would be about.”
“They want to know if we want to take the next step,” Henry said. “That is where a lot of discussions like what uniforms would be worn, where would games be played, etc. would happen.”
In an answer to the time frame question posed by Estadt, Clarion Junior/Senior High School principal John Kimmel said his understanding is that the PIAA would need to know by July and that District 9 would need to know sooner than that, by say April. But he cautioned that was only a guess.
Superintendent Mike Stahlman said C-L wants to have an answer on the co-op by Jan. 24
A call to District 9 football chairman Bob Tonkin by exploreClarion clarified that the District would not set a date for the co-op to need to be completed by and that the PIAA July deadline is only in effect for years in which the classification cycle changes (that happens every two years and this school year is the first year of the new classification). Tonkin did stress that both schools should keep in mind that if there is a co-op that comes later rather than sooner that could cause issues for other schools who were supposed to play on the the teams – in this case C-L.
Anderson said she wanted to hear first-hand from the student-athletes who would be affected by the co-op.
“Can we invite them to a meeting,” Anderson said. “”I want to know what the kids want.”
Henry pointed out that the student-athletes are welcome at any board meeting and one did show up at the work session last week. No student-athletes were in attendance Tuesday.
“We should formally invite them,” Anderson said. “Show them some respect by inviting them.”
It was then agreed that the Board, through Kimmel, would invite members of the football team, including members who play football at Clarion but go to school at North Clarion through a current co-op, to an ad hoc meeting of the Board’s Athletic Committee Tuesday, Nov. 20, being held in the LGI at 6:30 p.m. No action can be taken at that meeting.
HOW THE CO-OP WOULD WORK
How the co-op would work is definitely one of the issues that doesn’t have an answer right now.
Under PIAA guidelines, Clarion would have to be the host of the co-op were it to take place in the 2019 season.
The reason for this is because Clarion is currently classified as a Class 2A school – remember the PIAA Classification cycle is good for two school years with the current cycle running from the 2018-19 school year through the 2019-20 school year – and C-L is a Class 1A school. The way a co-op works is the school that has the smaller number of eligible students who can participate in athletics (all students in ninth through 12th grade are counted) would have half their student population counted in the gender of the sport (in this case male students) and that number would be added to the full number of students at the larger number of eligible students. Clarion currently has 108 male students, C-L 96 and North Clarion (any football co-op would continue to include North Clarion, who currently co-ops with Clarion) has 68 students. That means for the sake of a football co-op, the eligible student number would be 190, which would leave total co-op as still a Class 2A school. That would allow the team to continue to be eligible for the District 9 and PIAA playoffs in 2019. If the enrollment figure would have bumped the team to a different classification then the team would not be eligible. This is the reason C-L can’t be considered the “host” school in 2019. Even though the number of athletes would still be 190, C-L is currently a Class 1A football team and that would move the Lions to 2A making them ineligible for postseason play in 2019.
“We would have to be the host school next year,” Henry told the Board. “After that, we could have discussions on who the host school would be.”
What exactly, other than being the host school on paper, means, is unclear.
Would that mean that in 2019 C-L students would play as Clarion Bobcats? Or could it also mean that while Clarion is the host school an entirely different team name, mascot and colors as used.
It all depends on who you talk to at Clarion.
Some board members believe that C-L students should play as Bobcats next year, while others don’t think it matters.
“We would combine next year and work out the details later,” Board Member Julie Hartley said.
But Hartley also said that every single person on the school board knows it’s all about the kids.
“My football player, who is graduating, doesn’t care about anything other than playing with his friends,” Hartley said referencing her son Bowman, who was a senior on this year’s Clarion team.
Hartley pointed out one of the benefits to co-oping would be more opportunities for the student-athletes noting that her son had to change positions three times this year because of injuries to other players.
Baur said perhaps C-L student-athletes would enjoy being Clarion Bobcats.
“I graduated from C-L,” Bauer said. “I should be the one pushing for this. But I have to see what is best for our taxpayers.”
Kimmel had asked the board what would happen if playing as Clarion was a sticking point for C-L.
“A co-op is a good thing,” Kimmel said. “Students want to play, and the kids don’t care about the mascot, the field the colors. But what do we do if C-L says that is a sticking point?”
For his part, Henry said he understands football is a hot-button issue.
“Other sports co-ops between Clarion and C-L don’t raise an eyebrow,” Henry said. “I find that interesting.”
Henry said perhaps that is because of something Clarion head football coach Larry Wiser said.
“Larry said both teams have a long history, and a lot of tradition,” Henry told the other board members.
Cost factors with a new co-op could surround everything from new uniforms and equipment to where games are played.
Currently, Clarion rents Clarion University’s Memorial Stadium and paid $2,000 per game for six games this year for a total of $12,000. The District then gets to use the track facilities in the spring for no additional cost.
A co-op with C-L could mean that all games are played at C-L or that three games are played at C-L and three at Clarion.
There is also a question of how coaches would be paid and how many coaches each school district would hire.
Another question could be how the bands operate together.
These are just a sampling of the questions presented at the board meeting Tuesday without a lot of answers.
Henry did point out that Wiser and Clarion-Limestone football coach Dave Eggleton believe they could solicit enough in donations from area businesses and individuals to cover the cost of new, neutral uniforms.
Bauer believes that is just another way of “taxing” the local businesses by asking them for money.
Stahlman pointed out that a lot of those businesses that he has had conversations with over the years have said they want to know when the teams will be one so that instead of getting requests from both teams they will get requests from only one.
Henry also pointed out that it sounds like the band directors have gotten together and discussed what a joint band performance might look like as well.
Board member Zachary Shekell said he would like to have internal discussions with teachers, parents and coaches at Clarion Area about their thoughts.
“We keep hearing from the C-L people that our coaches and kids are on board, I want to hear from them myself,” Shekell said. “I want to know what they think. C-L is having all of these discussions, and we don’t know what Clarion is thinking.”
Henry noted that one of the reasons C-L has had more discussions than Clarion is because it has been a hot-button issue in the C-L School District and therefore has been a topic for discussion for at least 18 months in that school district.
“It’s been a hot-button issue for them, but not so much for us,” Henry said. “C-L is being so proactive because they are being pushed hard by their public.”
Stahlman said Clarion is seen as part of the solution for C-L.
“Now we must decide should we continue to be part of that solution,” Stahlman said. “I think so. It’s good for all of our students.”
The board voted to approve three building repair projects totaling $65,213.00.
The first two are with Johnson Control including one for $24,568.00 for a heating, ventilation and cooling unit for the Elementary School office and the other for $24,810.00 for the heating and ventilation unit for the High School rear hallway.
According to Mike Fagley, Supervisor of Building & Grounds, the district should save between $2,500.00 and $3,000.00 if the work can be done over the Christmas “shutdown” because it will be done during regular working hours as opposed to premium hours like weekends.
The other building repair contract is for $15,835.00 with Simplex for the Fire Alarm System at the High School.
In other business the school board:
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