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Informational Meeting Discusses Football Sharing

By Staff | Nov 8, 2011

RUTHVEN An informal meeting conducted by the Ruthven-Ayrshire School Board did not arrive at a final decision on the subject of sharing football Thursday night. The two-hour meeting gave patrons a chance to ask questions, talk about the subject, and gave board members a sense of direction on the subject.

RA Principal and Athletic Director Jon Josephson set the tone of the meeting after introductions were made of representatives from the GT and Emmetsburg School districts, the two districts whom had met with a study committee from RA to discuss sharing of the football program.

“The need for sharing football is pretty obvious,” Josephson said. “It’s not just this year. It the last several years that we’ve struggled with sufficient numbers in our football programmost notably with our inability to finish our varsity season this year.”

After the cancellation of RA’s season, Josephson contacted Emmetsburg, GT and Laurens-Marathon about sharing the sport.

After getting positive responses from the three schools, RA officials took a survey of students in grades 7-11 on their preferences. 64 percent were in favor of GT and 36 percent favored Emmetsburg.

A sub-committee with RA Board members Susan Sikora and Tracy Enderson, along with Superintendent Noreen Bunt, Josephson and RA Football Coach Larry Swingen, met with Graettinger-Terril on Oct. 18 and Emmetsburg on Oct. 20 to discuss sharing possibilities.

Josephson presented the two schools’ proposals to the crowd of nearly 30 patrons. For both schools, the motivation for sharing was the same: Diminishing numbers and a desire to expand sharing.

“We’re looking at what is best for the kids, and what is best for our school in the long run,” noted RA Board President Ray Grandstaff, as patrons began to ask questions.

Comments came from several participants expressing concerns that RA students would lose their school identity if sharing were implemented with Emmetsburg being a larger school.

“I’ve heard these kind of comments over and over,” noted Ron Brockmeyer, a resident of the RA district. “You need to look at what is best for the students right now, not what is best for the past. We tried to do some reorganization in the past between Terril, Ruthven and Graettinger and there were parents who were very much in favor of it but the boards got together and it blew up because they were hearing about who beat who-how bad back when. That’s in the past.”

Brockmeyer continued, “Tracy Enderson said it best in a newspaper article, ‘You’ve got to go past the past and see what’s here now for the people that are involved.”

“Put the kids together They’re not the problem, they get along with each other.” said Jeff Sundall. “Without going in with somebody, we’re not going to have a program. Sometimes the parents just need to let go of it and let the kids work it out.”

Josephson was asked what a minimum number of players was to field an eight-man team. “I would say 20, because you always have someone with a sprained ankle or something.”

“I don’t want to share at all,” stated Tye Reiman, a sophomore on this year’s Raider team. “I want to have our own team.”

Jared Sikora, an eighth grader, spoke up. “I’m going to be a freshman next year, and I don’t want to have to play against a big kid that’s a junior or senior, or have him trying to tackle me.”

“Right now, in our situation, as athletic director, I see no possibilities for our school other than to pursue sharing,” Josephson said. “Cancelling the varsity season was unacceptable. Going through JV season after JV season after JV season where our freshmen and sophomores never saw a field because we never played a game is unacceptable. We are at that point where whether we share right now isn’t really an option. The question is do we have a football program or do we share.”

Board member Susan Sikora called on junior player Carter Williamson, asking if he felt there was a need to share football.

“I think we do need to share,” Williamson answered. “If we go through another season like we did this year for my senior year, I would be one upset individual. We need to share.”

Grandstaff asked if anyone else wished to speak.

“I’d like to respond a little bit,” Emmetsburg High School Principal Jay Jurrens said. “Emmetsburg is a much different school today than it was. I’ve been there 14 years and when I came 14 years ago to teach English, I had 100 to 110 students in Freshmen English over four sections. Today, I have 52 freshmen. It is a much different place.”

Jurrens continued, “I know there have been a lot of things in the past that we’ve messed upWe understand mistakes have been made in the past and we understand it is time to change and our role is to look for a partner and a school that we can share with so that everyone can keep their identity.”

“Would you folks be willing to take us all in?” an RA patron asked Jurrens. “We’ve got all these sports.”

“That’s certainly something we would be very open to,” Jurrens answered.

“I know this is a very passionate issue,” said Graettinger-Terril Principal Jesse Ulrich. “I grew up in West Bend and the only two football games that I ever lost were to you guys. I know there is a proud tradition here for football, the same as Graettinger-Terril. Right now, yes, we have enough guys to field a varsity team, but who do they practice against? Lower classmen who are significantly smallerpractices aren’t as intense and people certainly can get hurt. We want to keep a small-town identity, we want to put quality numbers on to the field to be competitive and to keep that community spirit up – that’s why we’re here.”

Ulrich continued, “We know you have lots of decisions to make, but we’re right here. We’re the mirror image of you guys, just a little bit to the northWe need you guys and we hope that you need us.”

RA Board member Tammy Chapman noted that some people had a bad taste in their mouths from past sharing, but her personal experience with sharing had been fine. “I think the kids will get along just fine. I think both schools have amazing school spirit, and I’m a little bit jealous of them. I think we need to share and to me, either school would be fine.”

The Ruthven-Ayrshire board is scheduled to take up the issue for a decision during its’ November meeting on Monday, Nov. 14. A decision is required in order to meet a state deadline for sharing on Dec. 1.