BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A Fort Madison school official has expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the district’s shared baseball program with Holy Trinity Catholic High School.
Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater sent an email to the Fort Madison Community School District Board of Directors on Thursday, June 6 indicating Fort Madison players are losing opportunities due to the “heavy presence” of Holy Trinity players on the squad.
The current roster of the Bloodhound baseball team has 25 Fort Madison High School players and five players from Holy Trinity.
In the email, Slater said she sees some problems with this latest sharing agreement on the FMSCD side of things. She wrote that she is in disagreement with the philosophy that it doesn’t matter which school the student-athletes attend regarding playing time.
The entirety of the June 6 email to the board reads as follows:
As you know the district engages in sharing agreements on an annual basis that are approved by you as a board. The latest sharing agreement (baseball) has caused problems with the heavy presence of HTC players and coaches to the loss of opportunities for Fort Madison athletes.
I wanted you to know that I have shared these concerns as the FMCSD superintendent who is responsible for Fort Madison students- not Holy Trinity students- with (Dr.) Tim (Wondra) as board president. I am making you aware of my concerns and a meeting planned to address these philosophical concerns with HS administration, AD, and coach.
To date, the first large team sharing agreement for the district, which happens to be with baseball, has been implemented with the philosophy that it doesn’t matter where kids go to school…HTC or FM. I disagree. Due to this philosophy and implementation coupled with the numbers from HTC has damaged opportunities for FM students.
Our students don’t have the choice to attend a private school…a private school this district continues to programmatically support over and over without return. Our students entrust us to provide opportunities for them.
The hires for athletics has been to rebuild our FMHS programs through recruiting for FM coaches and FM players to build FMHS programs…not community programs.
Tim will be in attendance at this meeting to discuss philosophy since, as I stated, the board approves sharing agreements.
You have hired me to advocate for FM staff and students. This is what I do each and every day. What is best for kids? In this case what is best for FMHS kids?
I welcome any questions but please do not reply all as we have discussed how that can be construed as having a meeting. This is simply an update as to status of this board action item.
When contacted this week for clarification on the concerns, Slater didn’t return phone requests, but responded with several text messages on Thursday and Friday.
On Friday, via text Slater wrote there are no guidelines in the sharing agreements and the meeting was a “mid-season check since agreement was brand new is all.”
“Ended up not needing meeting,” she wrote.
Wondra said on Wednesday the meeting was canceled because Slater was not feeling well and the meeting has not been rescheduled.
“There was going to be a meeting. Erin wanted to get clear on the philosophy of the program and how it’s working,” Wondra said. “That would have been me, her, Greg Smith, and Jeremy Swink. We were gonna sit down and see how it’s progressing. Is it working out? Is it kids being hurt by the program or helping the program,” Wondra said.
He said Smith, as the high school principal, is Swink’s immediate supervisor and the meeting with Swink, the school’s activities director, along with Wondra, Slater, and Smith would have constituted more of a roundtable discussion of the program.
Wondra said he believes the program, and the other shared programs, are functioning well. The schools currently share football, track, girls’ cross country, wrestling, tennis, and baseball. Fort Madison also had a shared swimming program with Keokuk, but that could be on hold due to cost increases from the Keokuk School District for the program.
Central Lee and Holy Trinity have a sharing agreement with Burlington for swimming.
“I think the programs are all working well and the kids are doing well. Most likely neither school would have had a tennis team this year. They got great experience that they might not have had otherwise,” he said.
The tennis team had three athletes compete in the state tennis tournament in May and all three attend Holy Trinity Catholic.
Wondra said the recent success of the baseball program under the shared agreement will open opportunities for some players.
“The baseball team is going to have a chance for kids to be seen by college coaches because of a program that’s now at .500.”
Wondra said it was also important the athletes be referred to as Fort Madison athletes.
Several board members contacted about the meeting declined to comment on the meeting or the status of the shared programs.
“The first thing I want to to get clear is they are Fort Madison kids. We are one team and we need to come together. We need to stop identifying some as Holy Trinity kids, they are all Bloodhounds,” he said.