Andes athletes joining Margaretville teams will be focus of public meeting

By Brian Sweeney and Julia Green
A proposal to allow Andes students to join the Margaretville boys’ varsity soccer and basketball teams next year is the subject of a public meeting on Wednesday, April 7 at 7:15 p.m. in MCS Board Room.
The plan is being presented as a means of allowing Andes students to participate in varsity athletics during the 2010-11 season. Because of low enrollment, ACS officials do not anticipate being able to field boys’ teams next year for soccer or basketball.
“The word ‘merger’ is out there, and I just want to clarify the terminology,” said MCS Superintendent Tony Albanese. “We have a request from Andes where they don’t have enough students for some athletic teams and they’re asking MCS for the possibility of those kids to be incorporated in MCS teams, as has been the case for many years.”
The Margaretville Board of Education has invited Andes Superintendent Dr. Robert Chakar Jr., Andes Athletic Director Margaret Brown, and two Andes Board of Education members to attend the meeting and to make a detailed public presentation of their request.
“This is nowhere near being a done deal, though some of the thought in the community might be different from that,” Albanese said. “This is the opportunity to let the Andes folks come and present what their request is publicly.”
Mr. Albanese said the acceptance of Andes student-athletes would follow the pattern established over the course of the past four years, during which time Andes student-athletes have competed on Margaretville boys’ varsity basketball and baseball and girls’ varsity softball teams; two male student-athletes are competing with the Blue Devils’ tennis team this spring, and one has been on the baseball roster for three years. The agreement was also in effect in reverse in the 1980s, when a number of Margaretville girls’ basketball players competed on the Andes varsity basketball team.
“No decisions have been made,” Mr. Albanese reiterated. “We had a small committee put together quickly with athletic directors, board members and superintendents to sit and talk and better understand what the request was. It was never the intent to do anything but make this as public as possible, and unfortunately it took a few different turns and people’s perceptions took a few different turns that we want to clear up at the board meeting.”
The board will hear the request at Wednesday’s meeting and will have the chance to ask questions, as well as to receive questions and comments from the public. Mr. Albanese said that while they have the option to act on a decision, his impression was that an immediate decision would be unlikely.
He also stressed the importance of the consistency in the joining of the athletic programs, and that such an agreement would not result in “back-and-forth each year.”
“My whole part here is, I’m really looking at how we build our communities and how we look at working with one another and helping one and other, and the board will have the final decision on that and the community will have input as well,” he said. “But my goal is, how do we help kids who live in our communities have opportunities? They’re sometimes more limited than we’d like because we live in a rural area, so somehow we need to look at how we’re going to be creative and make these things work, if they can work and if they’re accepted.”
Andes Superintendent Chakar called the proposed sports team proposal an extension of a plan that has been utilized for several years.
For next year’s soccer and basketball seasons, the Dr. Chakar anticipates that three or four ACS players would play on the Margaretville squad and two or three for basketball.
“This has worked very well in the past and both teams benefitted,” he commented.
Dr. Chakar reiterated that the proposal to send boys to MCS for soccer and basketball next year was part of a lengthy study process.
“We have a committee that has had many discussions with parents and kids about what to do next fall and winter so we could provide opportunities for soccer and basketball,” Dr. Chakar explained. “After meeting with representatives of neighboring districts, the committee wanted to continue in relationship with MCS.”
He pointed out that, as enrollments decline, there will probably be exploration of Andes students becoming members of other MCS sports teams.
For the past two years, several Andes girls have participated as members of the MCS varsity softball team. This year, however, Andes has enough players for its own softball team.
“We are fielding a softball team, possibly for the last time,” noted the ACS superintendent.
The ACS superintendent explained that both school boards have to agree to the plan and must specify which sports and which levels of play will be included.
He said that the idea of the teams playing several “home” games at Andes has been discussed as part of the sports team integration.
“Athletics is an important component of middle school and high school. Our goal is to provide kids a private school education – if we can’t give them an opportunity – it’s important to find a place where they can exercise those talents,” commented Dr. Chakar.
Asked about the possibility of joint sports programs being the precurser to a full-fledged merger of the districts, Dr. Chakar said there is currently no discussion of that matter. The district merger has been previously studied on several occasions. Andes has approximately 120 students in grades K-12.
Margaretville Board of Education member Joe Moskowitz said he voted “no” twice on proposed sports mergers, but has now changed his mind following a presentation to the board last week.
After listening to the Andes board of education representatives, athletic director, and superintendent, I was swayed. There just aren’t many kids and there don’t appear to be many more on the way,” stated Mr. Moskowitz.
“There are still issues. MCS kids who because of increased competition won’t get as much playing time. That’s seen as a temporary problem to some, but not to the kid or parents involved. But I really hope as many people as possible show up to Wednesday’s meeting to air their views and to get a full explanation of what has transpired and what has been proposed,” he noted.