By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.ALLOTSEGO.com
More than 700 people have signed a Change.org petition in support of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes’ JV and Varsity football team after discussions arose that the team may be cut in the 2020-21 budget.
“If we don’t join together and peacefully let the board know how we feel: We will lose football,” wrote Kimberly Burkhart, who started the petition. She is a Milford Elementary School teacher and mother of a CCS football player.
“We are asking everyone that has been positively affected by the sport of football,” she wrote, “to sign this petition and come full strength to the board of education meeting at 5 p.m. Feb. 12.”
For his part, Superintendent Dr. William Crankshaw emphasized the school board is simply exploring options: No decisions have been made about cutting programs.
“We are looking broadly across the budget to make the most informed decision,” he said. “At our last meeting, we presented some ideas of programs and services, including classroom and extra-curricular activities, that have the potential for discussion.”
Both the football and swimming programs came up in that discussion.
“The question is, could we modify or discontinue those, and what would that be like for students,” he said. “We’re not talking about cutting as much as we’re talking about what is valuable to our community and our students and find the right balance of opportunities.”
The 2019 varsity roster had 13 players. According to Athletic Director David Bertram, the school reduced the size of the football team from an 11-player team to an eight-player team, with two of those students coming from Milford Central School to play.
“There’s a number of schools across the state that had switched to an 8-player game,” said Bertram. “We can’t play against those 11-player teams, but there is a playoff system within Section III, and they’re looking to have an 8-man state championship.”
“We have to look at participation numbers,” said Crankshaw. “We want to make sure we have the right balance of all opportunities.”
He said he was encouraged by the response to the discussion, but cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “This shows the quality of our community,” he said. “It’s a pre-determination that those programs are going to be cut, but right now, it’s all just an idea.”
Crankshaw plans to make a presentation on the budget at the Feb. 12 board meeting. “I encourage people to come to the budget meetings,” he said. “You can only learn more, and then raise questions that we can answer. The best thing is for people to come with creative solutions to partner with other schools and community resources.”
The final budget won’t be put before the Board of Education until April, following the announcement of the state budget. “State aid is not increasing,” he lamented. “The responsibility of tax payers is heavy to bear, and enrollment is declining.”
Burkhart encourages people to wear their football gear to the meeting to show support for the team.
“Panic isn’t what we’re looking for,” said Crankshaw. “We’re looking to build a budget that serves the kids’ needs and mirrors the values our community has.”