Margaretville School Board votes down proposed athletic merger with Andes

By Julia Green
The Margaretville Central School Board of Education voted four to one Monday night at its monthly board meeting to reject Andes Central School’s request for an athletic merger for the coming academic year.
Board president Barbara Funck represented the lone yea vote, while board members Robbie Martin, Randy Moore, Joe Moskowitz and Al Tanzer voted against the measure, which would have allowed male Andes student-athletes to compete on Margaretville Central School athletic teams.
The union would have continued what has been in place for the past five years while addressing the problem of continually declining numbers in the Andes student population.
In a public meeting held earlier this month to hear questions and comments from the public, key arguments against the merger seemed to revolve around concerns regarding playing time and the possibility of cuts; however, in the board’s decision Monday night, there was no clear statement on why board members denied the request, though at least two board members voiced concern regarding a possible discrepancy between the wording of the request and the verbal assertions made by Andes officials at the public meeting on April 7.
Moskowitz asked if the decision could be “delayed a year,” while Moore said that while he was in support of the “concept” of a merger, he was “not in favor of the year-by-year approach.”
A key point of confusion appeared to be the issue of what has come to be referred to as “ping-ponging” back and forth between schools, depending on whether or not Andes is capable of fielding a team. While some board members were under the impression that Andes assured them that such shifting would not occur in the future, others remained unsure.
“Under the one-year approach, I don’t support it,” Moore said.
Moskowitz indicated that his primary hesitation dealt with Andes’ lack of viability as a school altogether, and that by agreeing to welcome Andes student-athletes, Margaretville was allowing them to “delay the inevitable.”
“This is putting a minor Band-Aid on a big problem,” he said, adding that he believes the time has come to sit down and “have the bigger conversation.”
“Funck was the lone voice on the other side of the fence.
“What if this was happening in Margaretville?” she posed, adding that she hoped another community would welcome Margaretville student-athletes. And, in response to concerns about making a decision on a one-year cycle, she added, “Sometimes life is about baby steps.”
Margaretville Superinten-dent Tony Albanese also advised the board to consider the larger implications of such a union.
“This isn’t only about sports,” he said during the meeting. “It’s about communities. It is something we will face ourselves, down the road.”
Albanese also provided board members with a summary of data collected from the Margaretville student body, which was invited to share its opinion regarding the possibility of an athletic merger. Students in grades seven through 12 were surveyed, and Albanese said that the overall feedback from students was about 4-to-1 ratio in favor of the merger.
“I think it’s a broader conversation than just specific to sports, and my hope is that it’s still an open conversation,” Albanese said in an interview Tuesday. “As enrollment continues to decline in our collective area we’re going to need to have some more serious conversations, whether between us and Andes or with other schools in our BOCES area. We’re all dealing with serious issues.”
Albanese said that based on his understanding, the board acted on the initial letter submitted by Andes which pertained solely to fall sports, as needed to meet the July 1 league filing deadline.
Andes Superintendent Robert Chakar said Tuesday morning that he would be meeting later in the day with the committee that selected Margaretville as the first choice to look at moving forward to see what their second choice would be.
“No doors are closed between Margaretville and Andes,” he said. “This is just a turning of the page, looking forward into next year and again, the whole issue is just finding a place for our student-athletes who want to participate in scholastic sports.”
He added that the request was for the fall season only and as such, technically, the possibility of merging fall and spring sports is not off the table.
“This particular decision is just one decision for one particular season, and from our side of the mountain the doors are still open,” he said. “The dialogue will still be about continuing to provide our kids opportunities in athletics. We’re grateful that Margaretville hosted our evening conference to present our position, since they were unanimously the school district that our committee felt would be the most appropriate.”
Chakar did acknowledge, however, that a positive merger experience with a different school in the fall could lay groundwork for a continued relationship with an institution other than Margaretville.
“The short answer is that it’s something we’ll bring back to our community and ultimately our board. Is the home that we’re hopefully going to be provided this fall going to be, as I think it was alluded to, as a Band-Aid, or is that going to be ongoing? And I think that answer will come from our subcommittee and our executive committee and, ultimately, the board.”
Other schools that were considered for possible athletic unions included Downsville, Delhi and South Kortright.