The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Communities Question DW 2018-19 Full Combine Concerns

Waitsburg questions Dayton’s newly discovered lack of support


January 11, 2018

WAITSBURG – The College Football National Championships played second fiddle for community members concerned about the fate of the proposed 2018-19 Dayton-Waitsburg full athletic and activities combine. Local sports took precedence as more than 50 people skipped the NCAA game in favor of speaking their mind at a community meeting held at the Waitsburg Elementary School library on Jan. 8.

One of the most repeated and passionate sentiments expressed at the meeting was that parents should bow out, trust their elected officials, and allow both school boards to determine what is best for students.

In early June, Dayton’s school board approved a full athletic and activities combine with Waitsburg and it was expected that Waitsburg would do the same at their June 14 board meeting. Instead, Waitsburg received word that WIAA District 9 and the SE1B league did not support the combine for 2017-18 because it would disrupt existing schedules.

Both school districts then created advisory committees, which have been meeting regularly, to hash out logistics for a 2018-19 DW full combine.

Advisory committee progress reports to the Waitsburg School Board have been resoundingly positive, as had those in Dayton. On Nov 29, a community meeting was held in Dayton, with Dayton Superintendent Doug Johnson and Waitsburg Superintendent Jon Mishra giving updates and responding to community questions.

The proposed combine appeared to be progressing nicely until Johnson told the Dayton School Board, at their Dec. 20 meeting, that a recent survey showed fewer Dayton parents and students in favor of the combine than originally thought.

“This news is very concerning to the board,” Johnson said his board meeting summary. “It was believed the FULL combine would move forward in the fall of 2018. It seems that while many, if not most, support the current football and baseball combine, taking the next step has not garnered the same level of support,” he added.

Waitsburg had performed a survey last June that received a near 80% approval rate in favor of the combine.

Waitsburg had already scheduled Monday night’s community meeting when they learned of the Dayton survey results. Many in attendance were confused about what appeared to be a change in Dayton’s support of the combine.

Waitsburg Board Chair Ross Hamann said that he had contacted Johnson that evening for the most recent data and was told that of 87 Dayton students 33% were in favor of the combine and of 162 parent responses 42% were in support.

Dayton resident Mary Ann Ward said that 60 students had also signed and submitted a petition opposing the combine to high school principal and athletic director Paul Shaber.

One Waitsburg parent asked Dayton School Board member Katie Leid about the “temperature of the room” at Dayton’s November community meeting.

“I thought it was very positive. We got a lot of tough questions and I left thinking, ‘Wow! This is good.’ Maybe I have rose colored glasses on but I have no idea what happened,” Leid said.

Several in attendance questioned the validity of the data generated by the survey which could reportedly be taken more than once and only listed three questions. They also commented that a student-led petition was likely to be influenced by peer pressure.

Parents and coaches in attendance reiterated the need for the combine due to dwindling participation in both districts.

“It’s really not a Touchet Valley isolated issue. It’s not just Washington State, it’s a national issue with participation, and it’s not just sports . . . our band members are down, FFA is down. I don’t have the answer. I wish I did,” said Waitsburg high school principal and athletic director Stephanie Wooderchak.

Waitsburg parent and former coach Tracy Barron asked if the districts had considered the increase of travel costs due to games being farther away should the combine go through. Hamann said that, through prior experience with the Waitsburg-Prescott combine, combines generally save both districts money in the long run, even if travel costs may be more.

“There is a new league proposed because Columbia-Burbank is coming down to 2B – that’s a done deal. Riverview is having an emergency meeting tonight to see if they will come down. If that happens, there’s a whole new league proposed. Our farthest travel then would be Asotin. . . You can’t get wound up in travel, because that’s always going to change,” said DW Head Football Coach Troy Larsen.

Larsen said the neither Dayton nor Waitsburg would have made the quarterfinals in football in 2016-17 had they not been combined. And while the 2017-18 team has a 0-9 record following the loss of 18 graduated seniors, he said they began to gel the last three weeks of practice.

“Our football players could care less about mascots or uniforms. They want to play football or basketball,” he said.

“My daughter is a freshman and she was literally in tears when she heard we may not have a combine. She knows if this continues she may not have a team. We’ve already canceled games this year for lack of players. She’s on varsity (basketball) as a freshman. That’s not necessarily fair to her, feeling like she’s a terrible player when she’s playing against some of the best seniors in the state of Washington. What does that do to your self esteem when you get beat by Colton by 60 points?” he added.

Dayton resident and former board member Steve Martin spoke strongly in favor of the combine.

“This is not a tough decision. It’s a very easy decision. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, or we have no programs. Success begets success. With success we’ll see better enrollment, better turnout, better school pride, better ASB revenues . . . our bleachers in Dayton aren’t even half full,” he said.

Former school board member Greg Zuger said he felt the school boards need to focus on the kids and not on the parents.

“When the parents get out of the conversation and let the boards do what’s best for the kids I think we can move forward . . . you need to not be disrespectful to parents, but parents don’t always know what’s best when it comes to this athletic combine. I hate to be harsh,” he said.

Several attendees echoed his opinion.

“Whatever happens – whatever is decided. The only way it’s going to succeed is with the people in this room right now. If you leave this room tonight and you’re a naysayer and you talk it down, your kids are going to hear that and they’re going to be against it,” Waitsburg parent Lisa Morrow said.

“The kids are worth it, whatever it takes. Do you want them to play and enjoy it or do you want them to maybe not have a team at all and not have the experience? Point blank – that’s what we’re down to, and everybody knows it,” she added.

Mishra adjourned the meeting by welcoming concerned parties to attend combine advisory meetings and local school board meetings to hear updates and share concerns. No date has been set for the next combine advisory meeting at this time.


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