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May 22, 2018

5/3/2018 10:59:00 AM
Hutsonville board sees support for Martinsville co-op
Daily News

No vote was taken, but the evident consensus among Hutsonville residents at a town hall meeting Tuesday was that Unit 1's athletic program should go in a new direction.

After hearing opinions from board members, administrators and residents, the crowd was asked to stand for which co-op option they believed was the best. Out of the 30 to 40 people in attendance, almost all stood up when asked if the board should push towards an athletic co-op with Martinsville and cease the current one with Palestine.

Board president Tina Callaway opened the meeting by stating that the district had received a proposal from Martinsville last month. It dictated which schools would host certain sports, including scholastic bowl, and even laid out details for a mascot and colors.

"Martinsville will host football when it becomes available," Callaway said. "Hutsonville would then host high school and junior high boys basketball, baseball and volleyball, while Martinsville will host high school and junior high girls basketball and softball."

The Palestine-Hutsonville football program has already agreed to a two-year co-op with Oblong starting this upcoming fall.

Another part of the proposal states that it's possible that a new mascot/nickname could be formed with the co-op, although that will be worked out between both schools.

Coaches and athletic directors will also be joint decisions made by both districts, but the host school would hire the head coach. Each school will have its own athletic director if this agreement is approved.

When discussion of the nickname came about, Superintendent Julie Kraemer told a fellow Hutsonville resident that members of the two boards discussed that following last month's school board meeting when about 35 other residents voiced the opinion that they wanted to seek other options for the co-op. Kraemer said that it would probably be a new nickname since that the is the direction the majority of new co-ops are going in.

"The co-op agreement did say a new name, but we are very, very open to keeping it Bluestreaks and keeping it Tigers," Linda Von Behren, Martinsville school board president, drawing applause from the audience.

At this time, all the district's high-school sports are up for co-op renewal. The Illinois High School Association requires them to be renewed for a two-year period.

Kraemer said following last month's board meeting that she though it would be possible that another special meeting would take place after the town hall meeting, depending on the community's opinions. If everything keeps leading in this direction it's possible that a vote for the high school co-op could come sometime late this month.

But it wasn't just the residents of the town who had their opinions heard. Hutsonville students weighed in, too.

High-school principal Travis Titsworth issued a survey following the board meeting to all the school's students to see what sports could support themselves, if the district was forced to go in the independent route.

The survey showed that high-school boys basketball, girls' volleyball, track and cross country could support themselves. Another part of the survey, for those who intended on playing sports, asked the students what they preferred as far as consolidation and being independent.

Forty percent of student athletes preferred to stay with Palestine, 15 percent would want to co-op with Martinsville, 18 percent would like to go independent and 30 percent were unsure. Out of the entire school who filled the survey, about 59 percent said they would favor being independent.

School board member Bill Wyman spoke up about his opinion of being independent and some challenges that the district could face. A former girls' high-school basketball coach, Wyman has coached for the district for about 20 years. He said he understands how the numbers game is always an issue. Programs need to fill a team for varsity and junior varsity to have scrimmages, but then other problems can occur.

"Kids want to come play because they see they have a chance to play," Wyman said. "Then when they see how much time, how much effort, what they have to give up and other things they can do, they drop away."

Wyman pointed out the high school football program, which has had to forfeit several games at the end of the past couple of seasons, should surely understand that.

A resident voiced Wyman's opinion that the district needed to know exactly what direction the community wanted the program in, stating "You either be proactive and do something or ride the ship to the bottom."

As far as traveling between the two districts goes for practices and games, the board said that transportation costs have not been calculated at this time. But it is a 48-mile round trip between Hutsonville High School and Martinsville, whereas Palestine is 18.

Before the poll was taken, Hutsonville resident John Brooks said he was enthusiastically in support of the consolidation with Palestine and was disappointed in the outcome like most Hutsonville residents.

"Actions have consequences," Brooks said. "And their actions should have consequences. I enthusiastically support going to Martinsville on a trial basis."

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