School leader wants conference changes


JAY – A school official would like Mountain Valley Conference leaders to revamp geographical lines for sporting competitions and co-curricular events to reduce transportation costs and keep students active.

Fifteen high schools belong to the conference that spans from Thomaston to Bethel to Lisbon to Salem Township.

Jay School Committee Chairman Clint Brooks sent a letter to the Maine Principals’ Association on Friday. Executive Director Richard Durost was unavailable for comment.

“In light of the recent surge in energy costs and the governor’s call for reduction in school spending, it would appear that a change in the Mountain Valley Conference is in order,” Brooks said in his letter.

Travel time, energy costs and the cost of drivers are key issues in Jay’s co-curricular and extra-curricular program costs, Brooks said.

“I believe that the conference needs to be split along geographical lines, thus limiting the long-distance travel requirements that currently exist,” Brooks said Friday. “It would mean changes in the athletic scheduling as we now know it.”

Discussions on the matter have been ongoing, Brooks said.

“I believe that significant time has been allotted for discussion, and it is paramount that some actions be forthcoming that will ease the financial burden on local schools attempting to provide these important opportunities for students,” he said.

Jay factors in $4 per mile for transportation costs to cover fuel, labor and the bus, school Superintendent Robert Wall said Friday.

Jay High School Principal John Robinson said it really isn’t the Principals’ Association that needs to deal with this. League leaders, the principals of participating schools, is where the conversation needs to start. He will bring it up at a conference meeting Feb. 2.

“The whole travel issue is a big issue and is going to become a bigger issue,” Robinson said.

With the cost of fuel remaining high, he said, this has to be dealt with, but he’s not sure how.

Rumford’s Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert said he has different opinions on dividing the conference.

“I know that in the past in different sports they’ve looked at a north and west division or something like that and ultimately there is usually some type of flaw,” Gilbert said.

“If we’re going to belong to a conference we need to make sure we’re playing most of the teams in the conference and let the (athletic directors) do their job and divide the games up and schedule the games responsibly so that everyone in the conference has reasonable travel and that no one school is overburdened for its students’ sake and for its fiscal sake,” Gilbert said.

Some changes have already been made to cut the costs of transportation with some school teams that travel long distances either meeting once every other year or once a year, Boothbay Region High School Principal Jack Tourtillotte said.

“It’s a difficult question,” he said of modifying the conference.

He would want to see all of the effects that any proposed changes would make, he said.

They could look at reducing the number of games played, he said. Instead of 18 basketball games, maybe they could cut back to 16 or they could make it three divisions such as central, northern and coastal.

It takes his teams one hour and 15 minutes to get to Jay, he said, and about two hours to get to Mountain Valley and Dirigo High School in Dixfield. His teams play those teams once every two years, he said.

“If you make that trip every two years, it’s palatable,” he said.