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Split School Board defeats Moultonboro football measure

December 16, 2009
MOULTONBORO — The School Board voted down further actions toward a cooperative football team with Inter-Lakes, with declining enrollment as a chief concern.

The Friends of Moultonboro Football went to the Moltonboro School Board on Tuesday seeking permission to approach Inter-Lakes officials about forming a cooperative football team with Moultonboro.

A similar measure went before the School Board in June, but was unanimously defeated.

Around 70 supporters attended the meeting, one-third of them students ages 6 to 16.

The board's vote was split in giving the group permission to approach Inter-Lakes again, defeating the measure. Four out of the five members of the board were present with members Bill Blackadar and Mark Borrin voting in favor and Board Chair Laurie Whitley and member Fox Smith voting against. Board member Kathy Garry was absent due to health reasons.

"Last time presented, all five voted against it," Friends member Andrea Bonner said after the meeting. "This time the two of them changed their vote."

Bonner said the general feel was the timing was good and the effort had much support.

"I think the Friends of Football have done a terrific job," Whitley said after the meeting. "They've brought forth their case in a very polite and well thought out way."

Whitley, however, said she could not support having a cooperative team in light of declining enrollment numbers.

"I don't think a cooperative team is sustainable given the population that is coming through our elementary school," Whitley said, saying she is not opposed to football or other opportunities for student activities. "Where we are seeing smaller class sizes and in five years they are going to be at the high school. I'm concerned about voting for a program that won't last beyond five years and then I would create a situation for a different school board to make program cuts."

Whitley said fewer students at the high school will mean fewer students for the athletic teams that are already in place including soccer, golf, and cross country. Football would make four teams at the high school.

"That's a lot of teams to sustain with a smaller student population," Whitley said. With the students coming through the high school now, "we could support a fourth team, but it's not sustainable and I'm (against) creating a team that's not sustainable for four to five years."

Whitley said that was the sole reason why she voted against a cooperative hockey team with Inter-Lakes. The cooperative hockey team the MAILers have been playing and Whitley said the cooperation "has worked beautifully. I like the idea of a cooperative team for many reasons, not just for Moultonboro. Smaller student populations are happening in most of the towns."

"Many of us were a little confused and somewhat perplexed by her argument," Bonner said. "We believe football is something that people get very excited about."

Bonner said football could be a draw for families to come into town. "We don't quite understand what declining enrollment has to do with 70 families wanting to have football in town. It seems to me football could be some kind of a benefit in the town, could be a benefit in terms of enrollment."

Whitley said the argument about football bringing more students into the community is valid. However, other factors would have to be in place for that to happen such as more jobs and affordable housing in the community for families.

The group will be back before the board again in January when a fifth member is present.

"It was a very difficult vote," Whitley said. "It has been gut wrenching for me and in January I would like to say yes, but I just don't feel in my good conscience I can."

If made part of a cooperative team, Moultonboro students would join the Inter-Lakes team and the Moultonboro boosters would provide a share of funding. Any discussions and negotiations with Inter-Lakes cannot be made without approval from the Moultonboro School Board.

"(We hope) some of the other school board members would look at it in the face of the really huge amount of support the town has shown for the cooperative program," Bonner said.

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