A discussion about application for admission to a new athletic conference led to the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School Board making a final decision on the future of its athletic sharing Tuesday night. In the meantime, work on a proposed partial day sharing arrangement with the Emmetsburg Community Schools is progressing well, according to administrators.
In the board's January meeting on Tuesday, Jan.15, Principal and Athletic Director Jon Josephson informed the board that the Cornbelt Conference, of which RA has been a member for many years, will cease to exist in a couple years, due to a loss of member schools.
"North Union is leaving the Cornbelt at the end of 2014, and that will leave five schools in the Cornbelt," Josephson explained. "We have met with the conference schools and the Boys Athletic Association and Girls Union to see if a five-school conference can survive, and the feeling is that it cannot."
Noting that Graettinger-Terril has already made application for membership in the neighboring Twin Lakes Conference, the board was asked to consider also making such application, to go along with G-T for the two schools' athletic sharing agreement.
But RA Board member Ray Grandstaff thought otherwise.
"Perhaps we should wait on this," Grandstaff said. "Pending what we decide on our school sharing, we should look at sharing athletics with Emmetsburg, too."
Grandstaff noted that he had sent RA Superintendent Andrew Woiwood two e-mails, requesting Woiwood work up projections on costs to continue athletic sharing with GT, compared with cost estimates to share athletics with Emmetsburg.
"I haven't responded to those Ray, because at the last board meeting, what I heard was that we were going to continue our athletic sharing agreement with Graettinger-Terril," Woiwood answered. "If we continued that contract, why wouldn't we want to apply for membership with the Twin Lakes conference?"
"I think we need to take a look at those costs projections," Grandstaff said. "We need to know our costs for coaches, the costs of raises and look at things like that. I just think with all the uncertainties, I'd like to table applying to the Twin Lakes."
Woiwood noted that the Twin Lakes Conference Superintendents meet on Jan. 26 to consider the application requests. "It would be easier for us to get out of the Twin Lakes than to get out of the athletic sharing contract we have."
"The Twin Lakes will not take us without an application, just because we share with GT," Josephson added. "We need to apply as RA."
Grandstaff moved to table the application, but the motion died for a lack of a second.
A motion to apply for membership was then offered and seconded. Grandstaff then offered an amendment to the motion stating that RA was looking at other options for sports sharing, but that amendment also failed for lack of a second. The original motion was then approved on a 6-1 vote with Grandstaff casting the lone "nay" vote.
Moving into a report on the talks with Emmetsburg school administrators on the potential Partial Day Sharing talks, the RA board was informed that a vast majority of the toughest challenges had been worked out between the two districts.
"The administrators have meet on Jan. 4 and 10, and those discussions have gone very well," Woiwood said. "Schedules, technology, transportation, professional development and some athletics have all been discussed. We are very close on the classes and scheduling and will be meeting again on Jan. 18."
Other topics, including a Master calendar, course offerings and the actual sharing agreement itself, are also in the mix.
"I'd say 85 to 90 percent of the heavy lifting is done with regards to the sharing agreement," Josephson agreed.
"Right now, I have to be very careful in what we say," Woiwood said. "This is going to affect peoples' jobs and livelihoods. I don't want to speak publically right now on staffing. I want to be sure that you guys are comfortable with all of this before we have a joint meeting of our boards."
According to Woiwood, the next immediate task is for RA to get Emmetsburg student numbers for each course offering so that the actual schedule can be developed. To do that, RA students will be asked to indicate their course choices.
"Our technology people have met to discuss things, such as their one-to-one program," Woiwood noted. "We've discussed professional development partnerships and transportation."
The transportation idea is to have two buses transports students to Emmetsburg in the morning for classes. RA would have a vehicle parked in Emmetsburg for the bus drivers to return to Ruthven in, and then back to Emmetsburg to drive the buses back at the end of class times.
"We need to make sure when we do things in this arrangement, that they're all positive," Woiwood said.
However, Grandstaff once again raised the issue of looking into sharing athletics with Emmetsburg.
"I still think we have an obligation to the taxpayers to at least look at athletic sharing with Emmetsburg," Grandstaff said. "If we find out we could save $100,000 a year that way, we need to do it."
"Our students are warming up to the idea of doing this partial day sharing," Josephson replied. "They like going to classes in Emmetsburg in the morning, coming back to Ruthven for classes in the afternoon and sports here and Graettinger. What you're really doing is buying classes, with the purpose of maintaining a high school at Ruthven-Ayrshire."
"A lot of things were built into this sharing discussion," Woiwood said. "I have heard academics are first. It's not that I'm not willing to look at athletics, but I haven't heard that direction from the board."
"Do you want to have high school athletics in our community?" Board member Tracy Enderson asked. "The kids created the Titans we didn't. To take something they built, and for use to destroy itI don't like what that says about us as a board."
"We have something that works very well," agreed Board member Katie Meyer.
"I'm in a no-win situation here," Woiwood said. "I can't say we're going to continue with sharing with GT and still look at other options. That undermines what we have."
Board President Barry Fischer passed the gavel to vice-president Enderson.
"I would make an official motion to continue our athletic sharing agreement contract with Graettinger-Terril," Fischer said. "We need to give clear direction to our administration on this."
Meyer quickly seconded the motion. Fischer called for the vote and received ayes from board members Susan Sikora, Tammy Chapman, Meyer and Enderson, while Grandstaff and Board Member Larry Conlon abstained.
"I don't want to vote against this, but I'm not convinced it's right," Grandstaff said.
Getting back to the sharing talks with Emmetsburg, the administrators were asked what the student feelings were on the possibility, especially after the original sharing talks with Graettinger-Terril broke off in mid December of last year.
"When the news first broke, a lot of students were upset," Josephson answered. "But, as we've explained where we're headed now, a lot of those concerns have dropped off."
The Ruthven-Ayrshire board plans to meet on Wednesday, Jan. 23, to discuss what the administrators come up and will then set up a joint meeting with the Emmetsburg Community School Board later in the month to go over the proposal.