By Jann Wiswall

Superintendent of Schools Mark Ward discussed the potential for sports mergers with the school board at its Tuesday, Dec. 17 meeting. Sports being considered for mergers include varsity football and volleyball.

The subject has been brought up at previous meetings and with the public on several occasions, but Ward has since had conversations with other school districts that might be a good fit for Ellicottville.

One discussion was held with officials from Cattaraugus/Little Valley schools. This centered on potentially merging both varsity football and volleyball.

It was quickly determined that merging football with Catt/LV would put the team into Class C. Ward and ECS coaches rejected that idea.

“We didn’t think that would be in the best interest of our athletes,” Ward said. “We want to stay in Class D.”

Volleyball, however, is a different matter. ECS does not have enough players to field a fully competitive varsity team on its own, Ward explained, but “looking at who we do have, we can easily compete at the Class C level.”

Another discussion was held with the Franklinville School District about merging football. ECS already has merged swimming and track teams with Franklinville. Ward believed this would be a better fit for Ellicottville’s football players since it would remain a Class D team. While ECS athletes may have to compete more to get on the field, Ward said, “competition is good for the kids – it makes them work harder.”

High School Principal Bob Miller added that merging the varsity team also allows ECS to field a full JV football team. “We haven’t had enough kids to have both, so we’ve had to put younger kids on varsity who really aren’t ready. This would give them more time to develop as players.”

Franklinville does not have a volleyball team.

ECS also is considering offering wrestling as a team sport in the future. Ward felt that Franklinville would be a good district for a merged team if this possibility becomes reality.

Additional conversations with Catt/LV and Franklinville must be arranged to discuss the details and finances of these potential mergers, Ward said. He also explained that any agreement undertaken with other school districts would have to be multi-year arrangements.

“That’s only fair to younger students and the coaching staffs,” he said. Plus, “once you do this, you need to stand by it, because it’s hard to go back.”

He asked the board if it was comfortable with ECS staff continuing these discussions. The board was unanimously supportive of the idea and of the sports being considered for mergers.

Following this discussion, the board approved a contract with Windstream Communications to provide T1 and voice services, and approved a Memorandum of Understanding between ECS and the Ellicottville Teacher Association regarding contract language and the district-approved APPR plan.

The board also approved an agreement with Jamestown Community College (JCC) to provide College Connections Online courses to college-bound ECS students. JCC’s “concurrent enrollment” program allows qualified high school juniors and seniors to take college-level courses and earn college credit for just $39 per three-credit class. Not only do these classes help transition students to college level work, but it also demonstrates their commitment to advanced study to college admissions officers.

The next meeting of the Ellicottville School Board will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.