By Jann Wiswall
A dozen or more ECS parents and interested community members attended a public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 24, to learn more about the proposed West Valley Central Schools athletic program partnership with ECS.
Representatives of the ECS coaching staff, board members and others were on hand to answer questions, as were representatives of West Valley’s board and staff.
A detailed PowerPoint presentation was made, outlining not only West Valley’s rationale for partnering with ECS, but also explaining the benefits to ECS athletes of all ages.
From West Valley’s perspective, decreasing enrollment is the primary reason for the partnership. K-12 enrollment at WV has fallen 34 percent over the past 13 years, making it impossible for the district to field competitive sports teams or provide “a solid feeder program in any of the team sports.”
The West Valley community made the decision at a board meeting on Monday, Jan. 26, to select Ellicottville as its preferred partner over the Franklinville and Springville school districts. Ellicottville was considered the best fit for many reasons, including the fact that the two schools have partnered in several sports for several years already.
WV is prepared to give up “their school colors, mascot and athletic name in an effort to provide athletic opportunities for their students,” and will be “turning their sports program over to ECS.”
From Ellicottville’s perspective, the partnership will benefit the athletic program in many ways. As outlined in the presentation, some of ECS’ programs lack the numbers needed to field modified, JV and varsity teams.
Superintendent Mark Ward explained that ECS has scaled back several programs over the past several years due to lack of interest, as students opt for other community, academic or employment activities or choose to specialize in one sport instead of several.
But without the skill-building teams for younger students, varsity teams are having a much harder time staying competitive.
And as many of ECS coaches at the meeting pointed out, competition is what keeps students interested. If students have to work harder to make teams because of competition from their peers, they’ll learn the important life lessons about linking hard work with success.
All agreed that having more student athletes competing will raise the bar for performance and encourage students to work harder to make teams and be contributing members.
Middle/High School Principal Bob Miller also pointed out that a lack of athletes makes discipline a challenge. Team sports are a privilege, so if a student misses practice or commits another infraction, he/she should be benched. But, as Miller pointed out, “if we bench a student on a small team, it impacts the entire team – and potentially means cancelling a meet or game.”
ECS Athletic Director Karl Schwartz added that “when you have full rosters, you can get kids to do more and make a better product. As it is, kids are being rewarded just for showing up for practice.”
The partnership also would provide an opportunity for ECS to add some sports programs that had been cut or couldn’t field enough athletes in the past – potentially cross-country, JV volleyball and wrestling.
So how would it all work? While everyone agrees that there will be logistical challenges to work through, several details are known:
WV students would follow ECS eligibility rules;
The partnership would not change ECS’ State/Section Classification;
Transportation of WV students to Ellicottville would be WV’s responsibility;
All teams would be Ellicottville Eagles;
Existing merged programs with other schools would not be affected;
The partnership would require both schools to make a 3-4 year commitment to give them the opportunity to work through logistics;
There would be no financial impact for ECS unless additional sports programs are added;
The partnership would go into effect in September 2015.
The ECS board will vote on a formal resolution to merge the programs at its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 in the high school library. As always, members of the community are invited to attend.