Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 21, 2012

Stew-Stras moves toward full athletic merger

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The athletic co-op debate ended Thursday as Stewardson-Strasburg Board of Education signed a two-year co-op agreement with Windsor School District.

At their meeting Thursday, board members voted 4-2 in favor of signing an intergovernmental agreement between Stew-Stras and Windsor that would co-op several additional spring sports besides the golf and girls basketball teams that had been combined previously. Windsor's school board had voted 4-3 in favor of the agreement during its most recent board meeting.

The agreement would split nearly all the athletic costs and revenues between the schools, although some board members mentioned more work needed to be done to iron out some of the details before voting commenced. Superintendent Steve Harsy said time was an issue, as delaying the vote could make a baseball co-op impossible and could make a future academic co-op considerably more difficult.

"You're the board, you decide," he said before the vote was taken. "Vote how you want to vote but just know, if you don't sign it tonight, you take a decision that was lukewarm to begin with and make it sink. This is not going to improve the likelihood of an academic opportunity. You have an awesome responsibility as board members."

The co-op will begin to take effect after the first of the year. The early timeline is an attempt to guarantee varsity teams will have enough players so the schools don't need to bring up younger players.

"The reason we tossed out 2013 was last year (Windsor) had 12 boys and we had 14," said Stew-Stras High School Principal Mark Giertz. "Could you run that team? Yes, but if you have an injury or an ineligibility, then that's a problem. That's the whole point of this. It's to beef up our schedule and our numbers as well."

Several community members attended the meeting to voice their opinions. Some expressed a desire to wait on the co-op until the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year. Board member Chad Smith, who voted for the co-op, said the relationship between the two schools had been well established.

"This isn't something that just happened over the last few months," he said. "We have worked on this for a long time. You have to look at the big picture and what's the best for our students."

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.