(Full disclosure: if it’s not already known, I’m a sitting board member of School District 10 and by no way is the following editorial a tip of the cap of how I feel on the matter. I along with other trustees will hear all of the public comments and speak with administrators to get a feel on how the district should approach the proposal and move forward)
There hasn’t been much media coverage on this topic although the sentiment has been making the rounds for close to three weeks. Yes, Butte Central and Anaconda are mulling a proposal for a co-op in several sports as a way to keep them solvent. It’s a subject, quite frankly, I never dreamed would ever be considered.
The most apparent sport is of course football. The others that have been mentioned are golf and wrestling. There’s no secret Anaconda and Butte Central have a love-hate relationship and some of that animosity still boils over from time to time. Rivalries usually never die and some people have a hard time letting go of those even after many years being away from the game. Yet, despite all of the knock-down, drag-outs they’ve been in against one another in high school most relationships in college or in the real world after graduation become genuinely friendly.
The facts to consider:
- Is it healthy for either school to continue to field a team that is below 30 kids?
- Is it in the best interest of our kids and school district?
- How can we make it work?
- Who will coach the team and how will they practice?
- What identity will the team take on?
I for one have many questions as well. I appreciate those of you who called to speak with me directly or pulled me aside and asked questions. As a fervent supporter of AHS, I too wonder how the logistics will be handled. Remember, this cooperative will only be a three-year commitment. After that our programs will either choose to continue the cooperative or disband.
But I also know times change. We, as trustees, take an oath to look out for the best interest of our students and their academic and extra curricular endeavors. We need to decide if this is in the best interest of our district as well.
Many have commented how they believe our kids will be left behind in lieu of Butte Central kids. Those sentiments have been reciprocated on the other side too. But remember, we are considering this cooperative because both schools are close to losing football altogether.
During Anaconda’s final game this season, the Copperheads suited up 18 players for an 11-man football game against Thompson Falls. The team started with 32 players this year, on par with the numbers BC had. Injuries and attrition happen, especially with the safety precautions surrounding concussions in todays game. Both teams lost a developmental year for incoming freshman and still-developing underclassmen by not having enough to field a JV team. Many of those youngsters do not belong on a varsity football field for safety reasons. And not to disparage the Copperheads final win of the season, but that 46-13 win came against a team that is moving to Class C 8-man in 2019.
I love football and all it teaches and represents. Teamwork, mentorship, community pride, school spirit. It’s a release for student-athletes to blow off steam and represent their school and community after dedicating themselves in the classroom. Not to mention it’s one of the few revenue-generating sports for both schools during a time when cutting programs or personnel due to budget constraints are always issues that hit close to home.
And before you think this is unusual, look at the Flint Creek football team with Philipsburg and Drummond. Both fierce rivals for decades and now two-time state champions. They are one of over 200 cooperatives in Montana last year in a variety of sports — both boys and girls.
Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Little Theatre at AHS will be your chance to have your voice heard and speak your mind directly to those people who will ultimately be making the decision. I ask that you speak openly and honestly about how you feel on the cooperative and I can promise you the board will listen to each and every word you have to say.
Remember, a decision is far from being made but Wednesday’s meeting will provide the community input needed to make an informed decision. However, a decision needs to be made quickly and there will be a special board meeting before the Feb. 1 deadline to either vote yes or no on this matter. Also, Butte Central board members will also be holding meetings with their parents and residents at the same time. We truly want an open dialog moving forward.
Neither school will be able to move forward if either does not agree to join the cooperative.
I urge you to attend if only to properly inform yourself on the topic.