The Buck Stops Here
One can certainly see both sides in the recent Louisiana School Board discussion about possibly leaving the Clarence Cannon Conference (CCC) for the Eastern Missouri Conference (EMO).
Board member Tony Gschwender had a strong argument for wanting to stay in the CCC.
There’s nothing wrong with putting your students up against the toughest and the best around when their young, he said, because they’re going to swim with sharks when they leave the nest. He also pointed out that the proposed switch might be predicated on a desire by some to simply produce more wins.
As a former teacher at Louisiana High and the coach of the 1986 state champion gridiron squad, Gschwender knows all about the misguided notions of parents and others living vicariously through high school sports.
Board member Sharon Dillender’s desire to keep tradition is also laudable. Her question as to whether the high school needs to look at its individual sports programs performances before throwing the baby out with the proverbial bathwater was poignant.
But the other board members who indicated their desire to move or at least strongly consider going to the EMO also had sound points.
Board Chairman Daryle Wallace was probably right when he said students would be more likely to go out for sports if they knew they had a better chance to win.
If you’re an eighth grader in the stands watching more than 80 Centralia players wear down 19 Bulldogs like they did on Homecoming night, you might be thinking twice about wanting to literally butt heads with them one or two years later.
So when board member Lori Helkey said that kids don’t want to go out on the field knowing they will get thumped, she had a strong point as well. She also noted the difference in today’s student numbers as a reality that won’t go away.
Whether we like it or not, Louisiana high school numbers are not what they were before the turn of this century. It simply gives coaches fewer players to choose from and thins the potential talent pool by mathematics alone. There will be occasional standout stars, but they will be few.
One can’t predict the future but it doesn’t appear that any major firm will soon arrive to swell the size of the school district again. Maybe some large business owner would want to move here because of the quality of life, but that’s like thinking you’re going to win the lottery.
Board member Rob Lumley cut through all the rhetoric to make the most cogent point of the evening, when he noted the bottom line is the academic performance of the students and all board decisions should be based on that premise.
Lumley and fellow board member Wes Patton also had major concerns about what they were doing to some students by sending them on trips — sometimes twice or three times a week — to schools that are far away.
Bumpy school busses aren’t exactly conducive to studying and students are arriving home late at night from some those games.
Patton also posed the question of how much money the district could save by transporting students to shorter EMO distances.
The fuel costs and wear on an already-strained bus fleet could be eased, not to mention saving money on bus driver wages.
Patton also noted that more parents could travel shorter distances from EMO schools and bolster the gate at Louisiana home games.
Other EMO teams friends, family and fans would simply have more time to get to games after they get off work.
What wasn’t mentioned was the built-in rivalries that already exist for Louisiana with Clopton, Bowling Green, Silex, Elsberry and Vandalia, although Silex does not have football.
Let’s also remember we’re talking about cheerleaders, quiz bowl, band and choir students who travel to CCC events, not just ballplayers.
The only board member on the fence was Pam Todd-Watts, who understands all the arguments.
As she noted, this will be a tough decision, should one even be made by the school board.
All of this could be idle talk in the end because a lot of things would have to happen.
First, the board would have to vote to apply to join the EMO. It already appears enough votes are there, but early opinions and final votes can be two different things.
Former Clopton football coach Adam Falloon is now the athletic director at Montgomery County and saw South Callaway move to the EMO this year and Mark Twain move from the CCC to the EMO for next year.
Switching conferences can be a lengthy process, because teams usually have schedule contracts pushed out for two years, he said. That was the case with Mark Twain.
Also, EMO school principals cast the final votes for inclusion, another unknown for Louisiana.
Tradition and tough competition are good things to grow with, but current school funding uncertainty must be considered strongly.
The bottom line is how a shift to the EMO would help the students in the long run.
As Lumley said, the welfare of the students and their academic prowess should be the benchmark here. Every thing else is secondary.