NEH looks at future of sports teams

The Northeast Hamilton School Board held its second January working session on Friday, Jan. 31 to discuss athletic sharing, administrative/teacher staffing, in-house daycare and whole grade sharing.

Being a work session, no action was taken at the meeting.

Due to schedule conflicts, the Board set the next regular meeting for Thursday, Feb. 20.

On the topic of athletic sharing, Supt. Larry Frakes reported on the coaches’ meeting which was held on Jan. 22 to determine anticipated athletes per sporting event this spring and next fall.

Coaches relied on current participation numbers and potential participants for the data. Those figures are the best gauge available to the Board in determining the future of NEH sports, Supt. Frakes said.

For Spring sports, only one female student will participate in golf this year, Supt. Frakes noted. Track is another sport in which NEH competes, but with the low number of athletes, it is unable to qualify as a team.

Looking forward to the summer softball season, coaches predict a maximum of nine players will participate, said the superintendent.

“The numbers are close,” said Supt. Frakes. “Possibly, we will have only seven or eight, based on the number of students who have played before”.

With 11 players needed for a team, the school could only hope that additional students go out.

“But remember – Hope is not a strategy,” he said.

Also, NEH Junior High has an enrollment of only 36 students in 6th-8th grades noted the superintendent. Of those, only 20 play sports, said Frakes. It is anticipated that only five students will go out for football, six for volleyball and a total of 11 will join both the girls and boys basketball teams.

With those numbers, the school will not be able to field any teams for junior high school next year, he said.

“Junior High is a given that we need to do something next year,” Supt. Frakes told the Board.

While the school could field teams for Varsity football, volleyball and both boys and girls basketball teams, the participants would be playing without substitutes in many instances, he said.

Supt. Frakes reported that the numbers for football next fall are good, but the team will be very young.

Board members Bruce Mark noted that over half of the team will consist of freshmen players.

“It is scary to think of freshmen playing against Varsity players,” he said. He noted that the new conference in which NEH will play will be very competitive.

Supt. Frakes agreed that with such a young team, there is a greater risk of injury. In addition, with all the freshmen playing Varsity, the school would not be able to field a JV team which usually gives young players a chance to develop as they mature.

“The numbers just aren’t there,” he said.

Board member Marlin Pruismann brought up the question of possible injuries to such a young team. In addition, those injuries could force the Varsity team to forfeit contests without enough players to take the field, he said.

“Yes, there is a greater chance of injury,” Supt. Frakes conceded.

“Someone has to step in,” said NEH Board President Anderson. “That’s why we’re talking”.

If NEH would begin athletic sharing with Webster City, the athletes would still have an opportunity to not only play, but also attend camps, said Supt. Frakes. Because of the pressure to compete in sport after sport and without any relief during games, NEH students now have no time to recover and adjust.

“They would have the opportunity to make themselves better,” Frakes explained. “Right now, they don’t have the time to make themselves better”.

While the 2014 Fall Sports season appears to have just enough students to field teams, Board member Mike Rapp questioned whether those numbers will hold.

“With Whole Grade Sharing – these numbers don’t include further open enrollment (out of the district) once we make a decision,” he said. “(Right now) if kids go out as a sophomore, they need to understand they will be on a different team (the following year)”.

“Next year our freshmen will play Varsity and they aren’t ready for it,” said Mark, who noted the dilemma the Board is in. “I hate to play God and say all the sports go over (to Webster City)”.

With the possibility of families choosing open enrollment as the district weighs whole grade sharing for the 2015-2016 school year, Anderson said any hard participation numbers are impossible to determine.

“You can take these numbers and throw them out the window because we don’t have a clue,” she said. “People will make their own choice”.

It was noted that the deadline to apply for open enrollment is March 1.

“I hate to get rid of Fall sports,” said Pruismann. “(But) Spring is a no-brainer”.

“I don’t want to be premature on some of these sports,” agreed Bruce Mark.

“But that’s the beauty of doing it now,” said Rapp, adding that it would give everyone the opportunity to plan.

Supt. Frakes agreed that the Board’s decision needs to be made so that the district can plan for the future.

“Waiting longer and longer doesn’t give us a chance as a school district to make some decisions,” he said.

Board member Eric Patterson suggested that before the Board takes any action, that it look into the Rural School Association of Iowa. The RSA includes 50 small schools that are petitioning the state for increased funding flexibility, he said.

Administrative Assistant Dennis Bahr doubted that the Iowa legislature could move fast enough for any rural school relief to succeed, especially in time to keep the high school in Blairsburg.

Regarding the second agenda item, Supt. Frakes reported on administration and teacher staffing issues.

Negotiations with the Northeast Hamilton Education Association continue and the Board has countered the teacher union’s offer, reported Frakes. Final ratification of the contract is pending, he said.

With NEH looking at possible whole grade sharing for the 2015-2016 school year, Supt. Frakes asked the Board to consider a policy for transitional staffing next year. The policy could allow the school to place current staff in roles they are certified for, he said. It was noted that Administrative Assistant Dennis Bahr’s certification expires at the end of the current school year. While Larry Frakes serves as superintendent and elementary school principal, Bahr serves as high school principal. State

law requires a school that has both high school and elementary school students to have a superintendent and one principal for each school.

In administrative staffing, Bruce Mark noted that in the past the Board has conducted an annual superintendent review. In addition, the Board needs to develop a set of goals by which it evaluates goal attainment.

On the topic of in-house daycare, Supt. Frakes estimated total costs to establish the service would be between $60,000 – $70,000. This cost includes the teacher’s salary, renovations and supplies.

Supt. Frakes also asked the Board to develop policy for the daycare. The Board needs to determine the hours and scope of daycare operations, he said.

The last agenda item dealt with the issue of whole grade sharing.

Supt. Frakes explained the process if the Board were to make the decision to whole grade share with Webster City. The two school superintendents and the two district Board presidents would then meet to discuss policy, requests, needs and requirements. The financial arrangements would also be determined at that time, he said.

Food Service manager Sherri Olson provided the Board with a sample of the healthy lunch menu now available to students, noted Administrative Assistant Dennis Bahr. Board member Patterson complimented the food service department for the successful and improved lunch accounting system.