CLINTON — The subject of cooperative athletic sharing agreements is one with as many facets as there are schools involved. The Clinton School Board on Monday faced a decision on whether to recommit to agreements between Clinton High, Prince of Peace, Camanche, Central Clinton and Northeast, allowing students from each school to participate in agreed-upon programs only offered by Clinton schools.
The discussion featured board members who changed their original stances, multiple amendment proposals and seven different takes from seven different voters. Ultimately, the conclusion narrowly boiled down to the fairness of tearing up the agreements if outsider students were already looking forward to participating in athletics next year. With the March 1 open enrollment deadline already passed, some of those students would miss out on athletics based on politics.
“We at least need to give people the opportunity to make that choice,” board member Eric Gettes said. “Right now, there’s no choice, especially if (participating students) are going to be seniors next year.”
Gettes joined Gregg Obren, Jim McGraw and Jenny Green in the “yes” column of a 4-3 vote. It means that — at least for the 2015-16 school year — that the co-op agreements will hold for students who want to participate in Clinton High’s athletic opportunities.
Originally, the matter appeared before the board during its April 13 regular meeting. S
ome — like board vice president Jack Wenzel — said that a district that is faced with a severe population decline due to open enrollment shouldn’t make it possible for students to come back to Clinton schools to play in facilities the district paid to provide.
However, numbers released by curriculum director John Jorgenson since that time indicate students aren’t enrolling out then playing in. In fact, there was one instance in which a Camanche student open enrolled to Clinton schools and participated in soccer.
This didn’t sway Wenzel or colleague Dana Evers from their original “no” votes two weeks ago, joined by Missey Sullivan-Pope (who was absent on April 13).
Evers said it’s not just about enrollment issues.
Families whose children attend other schools are making the choice not to utilize opportunities provided by big schools like Clinton High.
“When you send your child elsewhere, you are weighing and measuring all of the options that are in front of you,” Evers said.
Sullivan-Pope motioned to exclude all schools from the agreement other than Prince of Peace, stating that parents of those athletes participate in the Clinton schools community through Boosters and other activities. Her motion failed 5-2, as well as another by Gettes that would have kept agreements with each school but disallowed students who open enroll out from participating in Clinton athletics.
Superintendent Deb Olson said there may be legal ramifications for approving Gettes’ addendum. With the board required to submit its agreement by April 30, Olson warned it was too late to explore if the motion falls within what’s legally allowed.
Although the agreements are with neighboring districts, McGraw and Obren both said the ones affected by turning away outsiders are students. Even though the ones in question don’t attend Clinton classrooms, McGraw said the board was lingering on punishing local youths over politics.
“Why would we want to penalize any kid in the state of Iowa or Illinois that wants to come participate in a program?” he asked, adding open enrollment issues “burn my butt.”
“This whole thing is not going to be solved over the three or 18 or 22 kids we’re talking about tonight.”
Although this year’s votes are final, the discussion most likely won’t disappear. Gettes said he favored undoing agreements in subsequent years, but broadcasting it early enough in 2016 to allow parents to meet the open-enrollment cutoff date. While McGraw stated he was “more than happy” to put the matter back onto the next agenda, he worries about tying a future board’s hands to a decision with a fall election and three board seats on the line.
Following the election, McGraw said, he would like to revisit cooperative athletic agreements.
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