Co-op deadline nearing for schools

A committee formed to give recommendations on the future of Cerro Gordo/Bement cooperative agreements for seven sports has taken a back seat to a smaller committee, mainly due to time concerns related to contract renewal for five of the co-ops.

The Bement school board is scheduled to consider two-year co-op contracts at its April 11 session. Cerro Gordo should follow a week later. Approval is needed prior to a May 9 meeting of Little Okaw Valley Conference members, who need to give the go-ahead in order for the joint sporting efforts to continue this fall.

Confusion arose over the existence of two committees at last month’s Bement school board meeting, but a review of recordings made of the joint board meeting with Cerro Gordo held Feb. 20 shows both were discussed at the 90-minute session.

A 14-member group made up of administrators, coaches, school board members and students from each school met first on March 12 with plans to meet three additional times by months end. However, no further meetings have been held after Board President Kyle Rogers expressed his understanding that a smaller committee was to address short-term decisions regarding the co-op.

At the March 14 Bement school board meeting, Rogers clarified his belief that the larger group would look at more big-picture items such as the possibility of expanding the co-op to middle school sports.

The second co-op committee seemed to be news to some of the Bement board members at last month’s meeting, as well Doug Kepley, who said, “I didn’t realize that. My understanding was that the (larger) committee was to address all those things.”

At the original joint Feb. 20 meeting in Bement to discuss the four-year-old co-op, most of the talk centered around better communication between the schools, possible changes to a 50/50 split on the location of practices and games, and the larger committee to discuss the co-op.

However, Bement board member Jeff Funk brought up the idea of a smaller committee that could make more immediate progress.

“Maybe there’s an official committee that looks at the mechanics of the agreement, that’s a board member and administrator, whoever that is, and then maybe there’s more of an at-large committee that involves more coaches,” Funk said at the collaborative meeting.

The two boards then went on to discuss the makeup of the larger committee, which was to include two board members, two coaches, two students and one administrator from each school.

Fifteen minutes later, near the end of the meeting, Rogers asked, “are you good with a couple of board members meeting, still, without the administrators to maybe iron out some of these contract issues and some of these thorns that we’ve uncovered?”

At least some board members agreed. Since there were no agenda items on the meeting besides discussion of the co-op, no action could be taken on the formation of either committee.

The Bement school board on March 14 took official action to name Stoerger-Flavin and Denise Strack as its representatives to the larger committee, along with the coaches, two students and two student alternates.

A week later, Cerro Gordo’s board directed Superintendent Brett Robinson to come up with that school’s committee members instead of taking board action. Formed in that way, the district would not be mandated to post notice 48 hours prior to the meetings in accordance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

When the Bement school board took officil action to name its representatives, it makes the larger committee meetings subject to Open Meetings Act requirements.

Neither board has yet to take official action on the smaller committee that is meeting to iron out details of the next co-op agreement, but Robinson said board members Steve Hayes and Rodd Runyen, along with Middle/High School Principal Jeremy Rodebaugh are serving on that group. That is the same board members as the larger group.

Bement took another path by having different board members on the smaller committee – Jeff Funk and Kyle Rogers, along with Kepley.

Henricks says it is a matter of expediency, and that both boards need to approve the next co-op in April in order for it to get to the conference by its May 9 session.

“We’ve got to get this thing renewed by April or we can’t play together this fall,” he said, adding that it is more difficult with a larger group to come to decisions.

The schools combine forces for their football, boys basketball, girls basketball, softball, baseball and boys and girls track. The track co-ops started a year later and are up for renewal in 2019. After approval by the Little Okaw Valley Conference, the two-year agreements will need ratification by the Illinois High School Association.

Despite at least initial confusion over having two committees, most agree on one thing: The co-op has been successful and is here to stay.

“There’s going to be a co-op. There’s going to be a co-op,” said Henricks.

Earlier this year, Bement proposed a 50/50 split on costs and hosting of games in the next agreement. The current one features a 2/3-1/3 split, with Cerro Gordo hosting about two-thirds of the games and footing a similar percentage of costs. When Bement school board members were under the impression the proposal was turned down flat – something Cerro Gordo board members denied on Feb. 20 – the joint board session was scheduled.

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