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MUHS to add Rochester athletes

MIDDLEBURY — The UD-3 board on Tuesday agreed to offer up to two slots on the Middlebury Union High School girls’ varsity basketball roster to players from flood-ravaged Rochester, but learned it will not be able to offer a combined Nordic ski team with Mount Abraham Union High School.
The board unanimously endorsed MUHS Principal Bill Lawson’s proposal that the school offer, for free, two girls’ varsity basketball spots to Rochester High School for one year under the Vermont Principals Association’s (VPA) “Member to Member” program.
This program allows a school district to allow a varsity team to temporarily offer roster spots to out-of-district athletes, provided — among other things — that the visiting athlete does not have the sports opportunity at his or her own school, is in good academic standing, and the receiving school is not displacing any in-district athletes by offering the spots.
Rochester High School Principal Mary Sue Crowley called Lawson at the beginning at the school year saying she had two students interested in playing basketball. They could not play locally, because Rochester does not have enough numbers to field a girls’ team. Their logical destination would normally be nearby Whitcomb High School in Bethel, but damage from Tropical Storm Irene has made travel very difficult between Rochester and that community, Lawson said.
Crowley therefore asked if Middlebury would consider taking two players, and Lawson agreed to bring it to the UD-3 board. MUHS activities director Sean Farrell said the addition of two Rochester athletes would not displace local athletes because the varsity team will return just players from last year. Two Rochester players would bring numbers up to seven on a team that is able to carry 12-14, Farrell said.
Lawson recommended — and the UD-3 board agreed — to make the two spots available for free. Usually, sending schools are expected to make a financial contribution to help defray team expenses, but Lawson said this was clearly a hardship case that deserved some neighborly assistance.
“(Rochester) still has part of its building that is damaged and can’t be used,” Lawson said. “We believe that as part of being good neighbors in Vermont, we should offer this … at no cost.”
Lawson had also considered asking the board to endorse a plan to combine MUHS and Mount Abe Nordic skiers under a single program. This would have been proposed under the VPA’s “Cooperative Team Policy” that allows schools with low student-athlete counts in a sport to merge their teams under one program.
Mount Abraham no longer has a Nordic ski program, but has two athletes that would like to ski and qualify for points at competitions.
But Lawson elected to withdraw his request for a cooperative program on Tuesday after receiving an opinion from VPA Executive Director Bob Johnson that the collaboration would not meet the organization’s criteria.
Specifically, Johnson wrote in a Sept. 28 letter to Farrell that the MUHS Nordic ski program appeared to be healthy and would probably have to displace an in-district student to accommodate one or more Mount Abe athletes.
Moreover, Johnson said one of the Mount Abe athletes being considered for the roster is an accomplished skier and therefore the move would violate the rule that a cooperative program can’t be formed to give a team a competitive advantage.
“In conclusion, based on the information presented to me at this time, I would not be supporting this proposal when it goes to the Activities Standards Committee at its November meeting,” Johnson wrote. “I do not believe it meets the criteria that were established when the cooperative team policy was revised.”
On Tuesday, the UD-3 board also received the first draft of a preliminary UD-3 2012-2013 budget draft. The draft, which reflects little more than salary/benefit numbers and other fixed costs, reflects a 2.2 percent spending increase compared to this year. Paula VanMinos, Addison Central Supervisory Union business manager, said she will present a more detailed draft after speaking with school administrators.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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