Coming Together

ELLERY – What do you get when you cross a Thunderbird with a Red Dragon?

In the case of Monday’s Bemus Point Board of Education meeting, plenty of disgruntled parents.

The Board of Education approved a one-year merger of the Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake football programs.

“I think it’s difficult for many, because at this point, we still have a winning team,” said Jacqueline Latshaw, Maple Grove superintendent. “We went to (The Ralph) – we had a lot of kids on the team. What makes it difficult is that we lost 18 seniors this year, and next year we may not have enough kids to field a team – or even a junior varsity team. We decided at a previous meeting that we should talk to Chautauqua Lake and see if we can’t deal (conditions) a little more.

“They were not interested in losing any part of Chautauqua Lake – they said it absolutely has to be a shared service,” continued Latshaw. “They have to look at it from the perspective of their kids. Their kids don’t want to become Maple Grove any more than our kids want to become Chautauqua Lake. The team name can be Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake.”

According to Latshaw, Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake would both furnish two coaches, but Maple Grove would be in charge of furnishing the head coach.

“One of the things we wanted to accomplish in this is that it would help out the kids and the parents,” said Latshaw. “It goes in line with the budget – we could propose that we pay to bus students (to practice) so parents wouldn’t have to go out to Chautauqua Lake to drive the players back. We thought this was a good opportunity for students to combine with Chautauqua Lake, but if the transportation issue became (a deal breaker), we might want to look into paying for a bus. We really do need to look at the safety of our players. We won’t be breaking rules – if you’re a varsity player, you’re a varsity player. If you’re a JV player, you’re a JV player. We can’t have students playing in both, because it’s just not safe for them. Safety will be our first priority.”

Latshaw added that this merger, at least initially, is only intended to be a one-year agreement.

“We will look at it at the end of the year, and we will ask, ‘Did it work?’ If the answer is yes, great. If it didn’t – if it wasn’t good for our students – we re-evaluate and make the appropriate changes.”

Following Latshaw, Patrick Green, president of the board, spoke on the issue that swayed him toward accepting a merger of schools: forfeiture of the program mid-season due to inability to field a healthy team.

“We need to look at the state’s new rule on concussions,” said Green. “We have some kids that were playing games Saturday, Tuesday and Friday. We had those issues with our numbers for our seniors and juniors next year, and it’s very unlikely that we will field a JV team if we don’t decide to merge. And even if we field a team for game one, we might not have one for game three – that’s a tough thing to have to say to kids. There aren’t any more games because we only have nine healthy kids on the program and we can’t field a team.”

Green then gave his recommendation that the board accept Chautauqua Lake’s proposal for a merger. He said Maple Grove negotiated for better terms, and voiced that he believes that the terms settled upon are fair for both schools.

Green proceeded to state that a vote is not necessary, but the simple approval of the board would be needed for the administration to move ahead.

Once the board approved the merger, one parent at the meeting said aloud, “Boo, bad decision,” and others exhaled loudly.