Concerns to be addressed before middle school co-ops considered

Discussion will continue on the possible expansion of the Cerro Gordo/Bement sports co-operative to include the middle school, but not until concerns raised at a joint meeting between the district school boards on Jan. 24 are addressed.

Among those included on a two-page list presented by Bement board member Janice Fogerson were inconsistent dismissal times between sports that sometimes causes Bement students as much as an hour of time to kill – at times unsupervised – prior to buses leaving Cerro Gordo.

“I’m nervous. I’m very nervous,” said Fogerson, relaying time lags her former pom pons participating daughter would sometimes see between practice concluding and buses departing.

“It’s one thing for a high school senior to go over to Casey’s and kill time for an hour to wait for a bus, but I sure as heck don’t want an 11-year-old to do that, do you know what I mean?” added Fogerson, whose daughter graduated from BHS last spring.

Todd Scott, also a Bement school board member, was quick to say “we’re not pointing fingers,” noting that there are mistakes made on both ends of the co-op, but added instances that include students crossing Route 105 to get to Casey’s “are dangerous.”

Another complaint made was when the cancelation of a practice resulted in no bus from Bement to Cerro Gordo, where a majority of the practices take place. One example given was when cheerleading was cancelled but poms was not, but that no bus was provided.

Several board members – from both Bement and Cerro Gordo – did not realize it had been issue in the co-op, which was put in place in 2012 and with the recent addition of volleyball will include all high school sports except cross country this fall.

“The cancellations, we didn’t know anything about it,” commented Cerro Gordo School Board President Todd Henricks.

“We really hadn’t either, except some of our own kids were involved with it,” added Bement board member Denise Strack, who admitted it had “cleared up now a little bit.”

She said there were also instances when athletes were transported to games but left on their own to find rides home, usually when it was small numbers transported.

Cerro Gordo participants also have lag time, with their’s is due to the different dismissal times. The final bell rings at CGHS at 2:58 p.m. With Bement letting out 17 minutes later, practices do not start in Cerro Gordo until 3:40 p.m. Henricks said CGHS students with cars sometimes go home and come back, while others stay on campus.

As a longtime assistant football coach, he also admitted coaches can be “the worst communicators” with groups outside of their players.

Both boards felt improved communication between coaches, administration, parents and players would go a long ways towards addressing concerns, most notably making sure Bement players knew when practices were canceled. Notification apps such as Remind were mentioned as ways to set up group texts and emails that can let all affected parties know information at the same time.

No votes were taken, but by consensus the boards directed board presidents Henricks and Kyle Rogers to meet with athletic directors from both schools to come up with a plan to address communication and practice schedule issues. The boards will then meet in another joint session to discuss that plan and potential middle school cooperative sports, probably in March. Adding high school and middle school cross country to the list is also a possibility.

For now, Henricks agreed the key goal is to improve communication.

“We don’t like to micromanage, but it’s got to be a directive from the top administration, through the principals, through the athletic directors, to the coaches, that communication is key,” he commented.

Cerro Gordo board member Karen Freese asked if a full consolidation between the schools should be considered, but it did not gain much traction.

“It just seems like with resources the way they are, especially with teachers and coaches, that pooling resources that we have seems like it would be easier and make for more opportunities for our kids.”

But it may not help the districts financially, according to what Stephen Hayes said he learned at a seminar at last year’s Illinois School Board Association convention. He said that, until a high school gets into the 400 to 500 attendance range, “you are never going to see” financial savings.

If combined a Bement/Cerro Gordo high school would total about 270 students.

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