The Earlville High School board of education, during its February 25 meeting, unanimously voted down the latest proposal from Leland High School for continuation of the athletic cooperative (co-op) between the two districts that has been a part of both communities in all sports since 2006.
In a Times story published in early February, the two sides were still discussing options, but they ultimately were unable to come to an agreement to keep the co-op going. The decision means that the schools will compete separately in the 2018-2019 school year in volleyball, boys basketball and cheerleading, while still competing together in boys soccer, girls basketball, softball, baseball, track and golf — the co-op agreement ending for those sports at the end of the school year.
“No not really,” said Earlville superintendent Rich Faivre when asked if anything in the proposals on either side had changed in the weeks leading up to the final vote. “It came down to Earlville wanted financial and managerial control of the co-op — essentially taking control of volleyball, boys basketball and cheerleading. We just weren’t happy with the structure of things the way it stood. If there would have been a way to share the decision-making in all sports, that something we would have been agreeable to, but to not have any decision-making in three of the sports in the co-op was just something that Earlville’s board wasn’t happy with.
“That wasn’t something that Leland was willing to give up, and I can certainly understand that as well.”
On January 29, Leland held an open meeting to inform its community of Earlville’s initial proposal, options moving forward and to get thoughts and answer questions.
“After the community meeting the board continued to get feedback, and I think everyone in both districts wanted to keep the co-op going,” said Leland superintendent Jodi Moore. “The co-op is definitely good for the kids and the taxpayers as shared expenses. For our board, it was difficult for them to see how it would be a good representation on their part to hand over all that control to another district when nothing was wrong with the current arrangement.
“However things change and you are always evaluating what you need to do and how you’re going to do it. This isn’t the direction we thought we’d be going, but this is the path we are on now, and we are going to do the best we can with it.”
Faivre said it wasn’t an easy decision for either board, as the product on the fields and courts over the past decade has been good. However, in the eyes of Earlville, the co-op had its problems as well.
“The co-op has worked well in a lot of ways over the years, especially watching kids from both schools working so well together,” Faivre said. “I think that was why each school was trying to hold on to it because of those good things, but there were a lot of behind-the-scenes things that didn’t work as well. I think both schools tried to manage and work through those tough areas because of the good ones.
“I sincerely hope in the future, and I’m not speaking for the Leland side, but I don’t want to rule out the possibility of working with them again in the future.”
Moore said the Leland board in the end felt they were just giving too much up with the Earlville proposal, having no say in many areas, including hiring coaches, and losing events that have been held at Leland.
“I can say our board considered it,” Moore said of Earlville taking full control of the co-op. “There were a lot of conversations and questions throughout this whole process. The thought of ‘What would be the big deal if we just wrote them a check every year and let them handle all the grief?’ but the board felt the healthier thing to do was just to say that isn’t a co-op anymore in that situation.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ll just have to make the best of this fresh start.”