ROCKLAND — The time has come for a midcoast cooperative sports program under the banner of the Rockland District High School, according to SAD 40 teacher Lynda Letteney. The two-year program she suggested to the SAD 5 board Monday night could become a model for the state, Letteney told the school board directors.
SAD 5 Superintendent Douglas Kanicki said the cooperative sports idea has been on the agenda of the regional school meeting for several months. But because of weather or absences, the discussion has never been held. He will discuss the suggestion with his fellow superintendents as soon as possible, Kanicki said.
The deadline for an application is March 1.
Interest in the Rockland football program has dwindled to the point where it is difficult to field a full team. Meanwhile, athletes in surrounding school districts in Camden, Thomaston and Waldoboro are dying to play football, anywhere, Letteney told the board. Why not invite athletes from other districts to join the team and allow Rockland to work its way back to a Class A schedule, where Rockland used to play, she suggested.
Rockland now competes in Class C.
The cooperative idea could be expanded to gymnastics, wrestling, swimming and skiing, sports which have sporadic participation, Letteney said.
“The logistics are difficult, but not insurmountable,” she said.
Letteney admitted she has a vested interest. Her Waldoboro son wants to play varsity football in Rockland.
The cooperative idea evolved from the Rockland Peewee football program which allowed participants from any area in the midcoast. With an aggressive fund-raising effort of $40,000, the Peewee program was established with more than 100 participants. The cooperative idea spread to the junior varsity with the blessing of the Maine Principals’ Association. With a dramatic improvement on that level the time has come to move that type of program to the varsity team, Letteney said.
The Rockland football team has not been competitive in Class C in recent years and there is no indication this will change, she said. She asked the school board to adopt the cooperative idea for two years, as a test case.
“This is a big step. There is some risk and it may not succeed. But 20 other states have adopted similar programs. We may start something that will sweep across the state. We can help students who cannot compete now,” she said. Students could be charged to participate in the sports, with different districts hosting different sports, it was suggested.
Football players from outside the school district who participated in the junior varsity system lined the room for the school board discussion.
Dennis Norton, a Rockland businessman and former SAD 5 board member who supported the idea, said, “These kids ought to be enough to convince you. All we ask is do not shut the door.”
School board members said if the program is adopted, Rockland would be forced to compete on the Class A level within two years.