Elmwood votes to extend sports co-op

Brimfield school board V.P. anticipates
similar vote from his group in March

For The Weekly Pos

ELMWOOD – The ball is in Brimfield’s court regarding the future of a long-standing sports cooperative agreement with Elmwood.

The Elmwood School Board on Monday voted 5-1 in favor of extending the co-op as it currently exists for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons. Kevin Windish cast the lone dissenting vote after indicating he would prefer to wait until March for a decision.

The Brimfield School Board is scheduled to discuss the co-op again at its March 15 meeting, after tabling a vote on Feb. 15. One Brimfield board member said at Monday’s meeting that he thinks the agreement will be extended.

be approved to extend for two more years,” said Jason Snyder, Brimfield board vice president.
Snyder also said Brimfield is open to forming a co-op committee to discuss issues that arise, including parental complaints, finances and other matters.

Several Elmwood board members also spoke in favor of a committee, whose makeup could include members of the school board, school administrators and community members.

“The co-op committee is an idea I’ve talked about for 12 years,” Elmwood Board Member Tom Conklin said. “In the last 10 years, the communication between the schools has not been as strong.”

The main issue driving co-op uncertainty is baseball, with Brimfield Coach Brandon Porter saying his numbers next year are projected to reach a level where he needs another coach and more facilities. Porter has also mentioned that participation by Elmwood has dropped to two players last season, though he expects that to increase this year and next.

Snyder and fellow Brimfield Board Member Katie Kappes said their board’s extracurricular committee supports hiring a third baseball coach and providing an additional baseball diamond.

“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to build a baseball field overnight,” Kappes said. “It’s in everybody’s best interests. We don’t want to leave that handful of boys (from Elmwood) with no team to play for.”

Porter spoke at the meeting, which drew a crowd of nearly 60. He said he recalls a co-op meeting held in 2017 when “a lot of the issues we talked about then are the same issues now.”

“I hope we can resolve them, but realistically I don’t know,” Porter said.
“We’re going to try to do what we can as a board to help you on facilities and to get you more coaches,” Snyder repeated.

“If we can accomplish that, I feel good,” Porter said.
One audience member asked how the baseball decision is different than when the two schools opted to split apart for volleyball.

Elmwood Superintendent Chad Wagner said that – despite a strong voice on the Elmwood board calling for an immediate split – that decision came only after a two-year analysis by the schools showed they could support programs on their own.

“We need this for baseball and softball,” Wagner said. “We don’t have the numbers to have our own program and we don’t have our own facilities.”

Added Elmwood Board President Val Ramirez, “In the co-op both schools have opportunities to play sports that can’t provide.”

Ramirez called it an “equitable partnership,” but said that if baseball and softball are removed from the co-op “it is no longer equitable for Elmwood.”

In other business, the Elmwood board voted to approve a revised intergovernmental agreement with PERFECT, a cooperative effort by Peoria County schools to provide career and technical education.

The board also approved giving Wagner the authority to spend up to $51,512 in federal IDEA funds to purchase one new minivan or two used minivans to be used to transportation of special education students.
Wagner said the lone new vehicle he has so far found was a 2023 Chrysler Pacifica seven-passenger model for $42,289 through the state’s fleet program with Bob Ridings.

During board member reports, Conklin said he has taken part in two negotiating meetings so far with the Elmwood teacher’s union. Two more meetings are scheduled.

“Our goal is to have this wrapped up in the next 30 days,” Conklin said.

In regards to the two failed boilers at Elmwood, Wagner said he negotiated with the manufacturer and was able to get replacement boilers for $31,000 – a far cry from the $142,000 the manufacturer had first proposed.

The board also approved moving its April meeting back two days to April 26. In order to comply with state statues, the board cannot seat new members until 21 days after the April 4 election.