FREWSBURG - If disgruntled parents were wanting an apology for the way in which the Falconer and Frewsburg school districts went about merging their Section 6 boys basketball programs, they got one.
As parents of players who are participating on or have been cut from the merged team voiced their continued displeasure at Frewsburg's Board of Education meeting Thursday, Superintendent Danielle O'Connor shouldered the blame for the hasty decision to merge programs.
"That was my responsibility," O'Connor said in response to a question regarding how the merger came to be. "The information that was brought forward to me, that we only had 10 students (signed up for basketball), made me feel extremely pressured that we were not going to have a program. And, in my haste to make sure that kids had an opportunity to have basketball, I did not do the homework that I should have done by myself."
Frewsburg Central School board of education members, pictured from left, Larry Gauger, Janet Black and Eric Wright field questions with superintendent Danielle O’Connor, second from left, during Thursday’s board meeting.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
According to Scott Lynn, parent of a student who was recently cut from the team due to an unforeseen increase in participation, much of the issue regarding how the merger has played out centers around the fact that parents were given misinformation from the board when the idea was publicly presented and approved during the district's Sept. 10 board meeting.
"If you get cut, you get cut," Lynn said. "That's life. My kid's dealing with it. But when that meeting ended, I thought Frewsburg was the host team. But that's not what the paper said. When I left that board meeting, I thought that Falconer needed us. It was portrayed that we needed to encourage this vote because the shoe might be on the other foot some day, and we might need Falconer. That doesn't seem to be what I'm hearing and what I was told, and I'm just looking for answers. Because I've got a kid at home that's not on a team."
"We've got to do our homework," he added. "And other kids are paying for it, not just my kid. We didn't do our homework, and decisions were made and kids are suffering."
O'Connor responded by saying the decision was made based on the information that was presented at the time, and it was the best decision that could have been made based on the exceedingly small window of time with which she had to work.
"We also had another meeting to make sure that we were trying to build our own programs individually, and we're trying to include as many kids as possible," O'Connor said. "This is an adult mistake, it's not a child's mistake. And so, therefore, we have an obligation to try and include as many children as possible."
O'Connor went on to say she would issue an apology to the students affected by the merger, as requested by parents.
"That's the one thing I wanted to hear, is that you're sorry and you made a mistake. Because that's what it was. So, thank you," Lynn said.
Terry Gray, Frewsburg's athletic director, also added that the decision to merge would have been viewed entirely differently if numbers had decreased as the season drew closer, which he said is almost always the case.
"I know that doesn't fix today, but we did try to immediately shift our focus to how we could include as many kids as we can," Gray said.
As sports mergers are considered on an annual basis, it is feasible that Falconer and Frewsburg may be able to sustain their own programs come next year. According to O'Connor, this is what Frewsburg hopes to achieve through the merger.
"We're looking at this as an opportunity to rebuild both teams," O'Connor said in a previous interivew. "All mergers are only for one year, so we hope that by merging this year, we are able to have two sustainable teams next year. Our goal is to have as many students remain on the teams as we can, because we want them to be practicing and improving their skills this year so they are strong players next year."