Margaretville Board of Education hears request for athletic union

By Julia Green
The Margaretville Central School Board of Education held a public forum last Wednesday night to hear a proposal from Andes Central School regarding the possibility of allowing Andes student-athletes to compete on Margaretville athletic teams next year.
Andes Superintendent Bob Chakar and Athletic Director Margaret Brown delivered a presentation to MCS Board of Education members and Superintendent Tony Albanese, as well as roughly 70 members of the community. Also in attendance were members of the ACS Board of Education and parents of Andes students who have competed on MCS teams in the past.
Brown said that Andes is working to make sure that they find a place for their student-athletes in time to meet the July 1 merger deadline set by the league.
“We’ve had very good past relationships with Mar-garetville,” Brown said, adding that Margaretville was the top choice over other schools being considered for a possible joining. Among the factors Brown said were taken into consideration were geographic proximity, level of competition, previous success with similar agreements, and future merger considerations.
Schools that were also being considered for unification were Downsville, South Kortright and Delhi; Chakar said that Downsville was ruled out due to transportation issues, and that Delhi and South Kortright have both expressed desire to welcome the Andes students, should the Margaretville board vote to deny the request.
Chakar and Brown both alluded as well to the possibility of a complete merger between the two schools further down the road, and implied that Margaretville would be a natural conclusion in the event of an eventual Andes closing.
“We have thought about down the road, where we would want our kids to be,” she said, adding that the Rural Schools Association “felt this was the direction we should go.”
According to a participation interest survey conducted of Andes Central School students, Brown said that the numbers showed five male student-athletes who expressed an interest in playing soccer, three who showed interest in basketball, and one who expressed an interest in baseball.
“Meetings like that are always kind of hard because there are always two sides to an issue and emotions can run a little high,” said Margaretville Board of Education President Barbara Funck. “But I thought for the most part people were given the opportunity to say what they wanted to say. I felt the Andes people presented their position very well and I don’t think it was easy for them because I think any time a school district is faced with this decision it’s not an easy one, and it was kind of an honor to me to think Margaretville was their number one choice.”

Playing time, starting positions concern for students
A number of fellow MCS student-athletes also spoke, voicing concerns about playing time and the possibility of Margaretville athletes, soccer players in particular, losing roster spots to athletes from other schools.
Chakar responded to such concerns, urging both those in the audience and those on the board to consider the request in the scope of the plural and how it pertains to all sports, not just soccer.
A number of community members also expressed concern at what they christened the “ping-pong” factor, wherein student-athletes from Andes join MCS teams for a season or two only to return to play at Andes. This scenario occurred this year, when Andes student-athletes who had competed on the MCS softball team over the past two years returned to play on an Andes squad this spring.
Chakar said that that decision, as well as the ensuing public criticism, “taught [them] a lesson.”
“We realize now, looking forward, that type of well-intentioned decision may not be a decision we can make any more,” he said. “We will try to make sure those things don’t happen again – that’s a concession we’re going to have to make, and we know that.”
Concern was also voiced regarding the potential of cuts on teams, which has not been an issue at Margaretville in recent years.
Glen Reither, former MCS athletic director, commented that, “It’s always good to compete against somebody better,” and added that intramural sports are a good arena in which to allow students to participate in less competitive environments.
Steve Tanzer, a member of the Margaretville community, argued against the union, saying, “The board’s and the administration’s role is to safeguard the assets of the children and school spirit,” adding that “a disservice is being done to both sides.”
The board listened to two hours of comments before adjourning without a vote.
Funck said she expects the vote to come at the April 26 board meeting.
“We know that this isn’t only a sports-related conversation, it’s also an academic- and fiscal-related conversation, and those are all the parts that still need to be talked through,” said MCS Superintendent Tony Albanese. “Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done on our end to bring information to our board by April 26, now that we have the clear facts from Andes on what they’re publicly asking. Until we had the public conversation with the folks from Andes, it was premature to try to guess what they were potentially going to ask for. It may have looked like there were other conversations, but there really weren’t until the public conversation.”
At the meeting, the Andes superintendent told those gathered, “We’re looking for somewhere for them to play, and their first choice, by head and shoulders, was Margaretville.”

(Sidebar) BY THE NUMBERS: MCS VARSITY ATHLETICS
Soccer (boys)
Players on this year’s roster: 27
Players who will be lost to graduation: 8
Players required to advance to varsity next year: 3
Andes student-athletes expressing an interest in soccer: 5
Jerseys available: 25, plus goalkeeper jerseys

Basketball (boys)
Players on this year’s roster: 8
Players who will be lost to graduation: 2
Players required to advance to varsity next year: 6
Andes student-athletes expressing an interest
in basketball: 3
Jerseys available: 15

Baseball (boys)
Players on this year’s roster: 14*
Players who will be lost to graduation: 3
Players required to advance to varsity next year: 2
Andes student-athletes expressing an interest
in baseball: 1
Jerseys available: 20

*includes one Andes student-athlete