North Clarion’s attempt to form a junior high soccer cooperative program has taken an unexpected turn.
Both the North Clarion School Board and Clarion Area School Board approved the cooperative agreement but the co-op was denied by the District 9 committee by a 9-2 vote with two abstentions.
North Clarion appealed the denial to the District 9 committee but the appeal was denied by a 5-2 vote.
According to North Clarion High School Principal Ed Baumcratz, the nexus of the denial came from the Forest Area School District which claimed North Clarion and Clarion forming a junior high soccer co-op was done for performance reasons.
Forest Area claimed North Clarion and Clarion were forming a “super team.”
It is believed this is the first time the District 9 committee has denied a cooperative.
Prior to entering into the junior high soccer co-op with Clarion, North Clarion opted out of the junior high soccer co-op it had with Forest Area. North Clarion did approach Forest Area about joining the junior high soccer co-op with Clarion and North Clarion but Forest Area declined.
North Clarion School Board President Scott Daum who is also a member of the District 9 committee said he believes the timing of the move was the reason the District 9 committee denied the co-op between North Clarion and Clarion Area.
Originally, North Clarion exited the Forest Area co-op to form its own junior high soccer program. Clarion Area approached North Clarion about forming a co-op. Baumcratz said Clarion had six junior high players who were interested in playing junior high soccer.
Currently, the North Clarion junior high soccer program which is co-ed — has six girls and 10 boys. Baumcratz said he is confident if the junior high can maintain those numbers through the next couple years, North Clarion could field its own varsity teams.
Baumcratz also said this year there are 10 girls and nine boys playing in the Forest Area varsity co-ops.
Daum said he believes the pause would give the co-op a better chance of survival.
Prior to the adjournment of the open meeting, North Clarion went into executive session to discuss contract negotiations and personnel. However, the board was overheard continuing the discussion of the soccer co-op.
During the executive session, Daum was overheard saying it was an uncomfortable District 9 committee meeting for him and North Clarion Athletic Director Bonnie Wolbert who is also a member of the District 9 committee when the matter was discussed.
Daum was overheard saying the committee questioned him why Clarion Area would enter into a junior high soccer program with North Clarion when Clarion Area and Clarion-Limestone are involved in both boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer co-op agreements.
North Clarion is currently engaged in boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer co-op agreements with Forest Area. However, the North Clarion School Board voted to dissolve its girls’ varsity soccer co-op agreements with Forest Area in 2021 to join in a co-op with Clarion but due to the co-op agreement with Clarion coming in the middle of the PIAA classification cycle, the plan had to be scrapped and North Clarion rejoined the Forest Area co-op.
The North Clarion administration had planned to appeal District 9’s decision with the PIAA but decided to have Clarion make the appeal if it chose to.
North Clarion Superintendent Steve Young said the board could revisit the issue next year.
When contacted, Clarion Area Superintendent Dr. Joseph Carrico said the district was not appealing District 9’s decision with the PIAA. Carrico said the process of forming the co-op was rushed since it happened over the summer.
Carrico also said since the appeal process would take so long and the junior high soccer season is so short it just made more sense to revisit the matter next year.
(It is the opinion of the CLARION NEWS the continued discussion of the soccer issue in executive session did not meet the requirements for closed-door discussion.)
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