Eisenhower looks to join District 9

Eisenhower Middle High School is seeking to move its athletic teams from competition in PIAA District 10 to District 9.

The first step in the process is approval by the board of school directors, and Athletic Coordinator Bill Vanatta approached the board’s Personnel/Athletics & Co-Curricular Activities Committee with the proposal on Monday night.

“As we went through the year, (we) looked at demographics, how it compares to the schools we’re playing. D9 is more compatible with what we have at Eisenhower,” Vanatta said. “(The) funding (is) in line with D9 more so than D10. (We’re) basically looking at opportunities for our kids. In D9, we’re more competitive.”

A presentation prepared for the meeting cites four specific reasons in support of the shift:

“Share common school demographics and sports history with those already in District 9.”

“Consistency of opponents in our league.”

“More opportunities for our student-athletes and teams to be successful.”

“District 9 committee is more willing to listen to concerns of all schools.”

Vanatta, citing statistics provided at the meeting, noted that Eisenhower’s male enrollment places the school in 39th of 50 schools in District 10 and the female enrollment puts Ike in a tie for 41st. A move to District 9 would place Eisenhower as the 15th largest of 38 on the male side and 19th of 37 in female enrollment.

“I’m wondering how you (relate) enrollment to competitiveness,” Board member John Grant said. “Every time I open the paper Eisenhower is winning something. I’m just interested…when you use the word competitive, what it means. Why aren’t you in Youngsville doing the same argument.”

In speaking on Youngsville, Vanatta explained that different schools have different personalities and administration.

“That puts up a red flag for me. We’re one school district,” Grant said. “Eisenhower is not contiguous (and will) have to go through a portion of District 10 to (get to) District 9.”

Grant also noted that the presentation did not include a potential cost savings, as a presentation from Sheffield did several years ago after the Tri-County Athletic Conference dis-banded and Sheffield sought to join D9. “I do not see a cost effectiveness element to your recommendation,” he said. “So is it fair to say you want the change so you’re kids win more?”

Board member Tom Knapp said that “the way I see the difference (in football we) play 10 games, four against (class) A (schools), two against AA, three against AAA. In D9, it would be all 10 single A schools. That’s where I see the big difference.”

“We’ll be playing schools our size,” Vanatta said. “Savings would depend on how the schedule works out.”

Board member Jack Werner said that there are “three issues beyond our control. D10 must release a school before they can change. Even with our approval, if D10 chooses to hold you to D10, you are a member of D10.

“Second, D9 has to accept you. Third position, in D10, your league competition is a district-wide arrangement. D10 has regions. D9 has independent leagues in virtually every sport. The football league, AML (Allegheny Mountain League) would have to accept you into their league.”

Werner explained that the AML is divided into two divisions of six teams each. Each school plays all five members in their division, four from the other division and scrimmages the two teams they do not play. “That’s a perfect schedule,” he said. “(It) fills your season. The AML might not want you.”

Vanatta said that a vacancy in the league exists and that “us and Youngsville” have been approached about joining the AML. “We were informed that we would be the front runner to get in (for football), he added. “They have offered and they are willing to listen.”

If the board, D10, D9 and the AML approve a potential move, Vanatta said they are “looking at 2014-15. Our schedule is set. (This request is) not about this coming fall.”

New District Athletic Coordinator Phil Knapp said that he would make an administrative recommendation before this item goes before the board for a vote.

“If I vote for it,” said Grant, “I’m voting because it’s best for kids.” He explained that a yes vote here would be “saying it’s not good for Youngsville.” He asked the committee to “expand the issue.”