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Sullivan West JV football fate awaits final decision

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Bulldogs Football was again the motivation for a packed audience at the February 8 Sullivan West Board of Education meeting, but this time the focus was on the fate of the junior varsity and modified teams.

Of particular concern was whether a decision has already been made about those teams’ configurations based on a conflicting message in a letter that athletic director David Franskevicz sent to parents.

Sullivan West Central School committed by a January 4 Section IX deadline to convert its varsity program to eight-player football with a 12-member roster after determining they had insufficient numbers to field 11, which requires 16 on the team.

Last year, Sullivan West merged with Roscoe, Livingston Manor, and Downsville to enable them to have enough varsity players to compete at all.

The question of how to structure football at the junior varsity level in terms of which grades to combine and whether it will be eight or 11 players does not have to be decided until April at the earliest.

Important considerations are how many students will join the program and how many equivalent teams will there be to compete against in the region.

“There is still more research to be done,” said Superintendent Dr. Nancy Hackett.

However, board member Trevor Peachey said that Franskevicz’s letter appeared to suggest that seventh-graders would be playing against ninth-graders, which has caused concern in the community.

Football coach Shane Cruz expressed support for the varsity decision to convert to an eight-player format on the basis that “we’re all about getting back in our own uniforms,” but he said that all input should be duly weighed about what happens at the lower grades.

“When there are 100 lives that are going to be affected by a decision, there needs to be a thorough process. Please diligently look into this. There were no facts here tonight. We were under the impression that there would be,” he said. 

Dave Hubert said in public comment that some parents have told him they won’t allow their boys to play if seventh-graders compete against ninth-graders out of safety fears.

Cruz agreed that it could be dangerous due to their different levels of physical maturity in a heavy contact sport.

There should also be consideration for how many team members will get the chance to play and build their skills potentially to ascend to the varsity level, Hubert said.

Retired long-time coach Ron Bauer said the transition from 11-man to eight-man football isn’t easy.

“It’s better to have some consistency but if you have real dedicated kids; they can overcome it,” he advised.

“We’re not typically in this conversation as board members,” Peachey said as he explained that the decision will ultimately be up to the athletic director.

Dr. Hackett noted that Franskevicz was not in attendance due to a prior conflict but said, “My take-away from this is: there was clearly not enough communication.”

Cruz made a final plea to the board.

 “Whatever we do and however we do it, how about we just do it together so people aren’t shocked when they get a letter?” he asked.

In other news, the board regretfully accepted the August 1, 2018 retirement notice of Margaret “Peg” Luty after 31 years as the district clerk and secretary to the superintendent.

Dr. Hackett said that Luty was the very first individual she met when she arrived to interview for her job and an hour-long chat ensued.

“That was the person who sold me on Sullivan West, no question,” she said.

In other business, the board approved changes to the district calendar to restore March 16 as an instructional day rather than a conference day to add a third snow day into the bank. May 25, which was to be an extension of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, will now be a conference day.

Sullivan West’s 11% improvement in its graduation rate to 90% in 2017 from 79% in 2016 was extolled as the highest jump among all districts in Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties.

New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther donated $200 to purchase star lapel pins for Sullivan West’s new “Wonderful Women Initiative” to recognize female role models, while the Gerry Foundation awarded a $200 Healthy Initiative Grant to purchase cooking supplies for the Sullivan West Elementary Garden Club.


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