The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

Debate over Lewis Mills’ move continues

- By Peter Wallace

BURLINGTON — At its April meeting the Region 10 Board of Education voted 6-3 to move Lewis Mills High School athletics out of the Berkshire League and into the Central Connecticu­t Conference, largely on the strength of a unanimous report by a four-member study committee.

Monday night, a crowd of Burlington/Harwinton parents, students and coaches filled most of the high school’s auditorium to present arguments for reconsider­ing along with a few endorsing the decision.

“We’re not paid for this job; we don’t have an axe to grind; we just try to do the best job we can,” said Board Chairman Tom Fausal, following a parade of some 20 speakers, several backed with petitions representi­ng many more students, coaches and community members.

Fausal recounted the committee findings at the start of the meeting: more JV programs in the new league; lack of growth by other BL schools; lack of immediate response from BL officials for change; and a discount of meaningful size disparity in the Spartans’ new CCC South Division.

One by one, speakers opposed to the move presented facts they claimed were missing in the original decision.

Four-time All-State girls soccer player Chloe Waldron summarized the disagreeme­nt most pointedly.

“In your 15-month study, coaches were not part of the process; the community was not part of the process; and students were not part of the process,” she said.

“In April, you thought most of the coaches were behind the move,” said golf coach Jay Pelcar, presenting a coaches’ petition against the move, signed by 52 percent of the coaching staff, with others opposed but unable to sign.

“Only four coaches support the move,” Pelchar said.

Jen Bylykbashi, a Burlington resident, presented a similar petition from the community.

“We were shocked after the April decision,” she said. “Without aid of a notice or social media, we gathered 360 community signatures against it in 72 hours.”

Joe Neary, one of the student spearheads for Monday’s forum, along with Sam McKenna, presented a third petition.

“We got 365 student signatures against the move,” Neary said.

Amid arguments against the challenges of competing with, in some cases, much larger schools, resident

Steve Miller took a more practical note.

“We can expect to have to increase our budge considerab­ly to compete,” he said, while presenting comparativ­e athletic budget data that he said would require Mills to add some $110,000 to catch up with additional personnel and equipment.

“I think you’re right in your decision, but we need a plan,” said another resident, John Bergstrom. “If we’re going, how do we compete? If we’re staying, how can we change the Berkshire League?”

“It’s a tough situation,” said Mills Principal Chris Rau, who said the applicatio­n

for membership has already been submitted to the CCC, due for their considerat­ion by June 4.

Board Chairman Fausal said he would talk to other Board members to determine if reconsider­ation would be on the agenda for the next scheduled Board meeting, June 11.

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