NFV School Board - UIC







NFV staying in UIC, for now


Chris DeBack


North Fayette Valley won’t be leaving the Upper Iowa Conference (UIC), at least for now. 

At its regular board meeting on Monday, Oct. 8, the North Fayette Valley school board discussed an invitation to join the Northeast Iowa Conference (NEIC) starting with the 2020-2021 school year. While the school board voted to decline the invitation, the consensus was that it wasn’t ready to leave the UIC, but open to the possibility in the future. 

The school board noted that comments by coaches, parents, and administrators in attendance showed the district needed to increase its level of competition if it wanted to compete come playoff time in its current class. However, current participation levels and a lack of fully developed youth programs would make it difficult for NFV to be competitive in a conference like the NEIC right now. 

The school district originally received an invitation to join the NEIC for the 2018-2019 school year a few months ago but wanted time to study what types of programs were offered by the conference to ensure the district wouldn’t be losing anything by switching. It goes beyond just sports to the offerings of other extracurricular activities events such as speech, band, chorus, and etc. Currently, the NEIC has seven member schools including Waverly-Shell Rock, Oelwein, Charles City, Decorah, Waukon, Crestwood, and New Hampton. 

Duane Willhite, NFV superintendent, and Todd Wolverton, NFV High School principal, held two meetings with current coaches since being invited to join the NEIC. The meetings were held to gather a sense of the pros and cons of leaving the UIC. Willhite presented a list of pros for staying and leaving to the board. 

What Willhite saw as pros for leaving the UIC includes raising the level of competition it would face in conference, the fact that the UIC doesn’t present enough JV and freshman games, and the future of the UIC is in doubt.  

The main pros for staying in the UIC include the fact that NFV doesn’t have participation numbers that would allow it to be competitive in conference play, not having youth programs as developed as some of the larger towns in the NEIC, and travel distance. The average travel distance to a UIC school is 55 miles, while its 74 miles to a NEIC school.

“We are right where I predicted we would be with participation,” Wolverton said. “We had very big numbers when we started sharing and that is because of the excitement of something new. We had a lot of students that had already participated in a high school or middle school sports. Our participation in terms of per capita really isn’t that much different than schools that are bigger than us, and in some respects, we are doing better than some schools that are bigger than us. There was a time when Charles City struggled fielding lower level teams. I am not surprised with where we are at with the participation levels because the kids figure out where the opportunity to play lies.”

With the future of the UIC in doubt, Wolverton noted that the district needed to be proactive in its ability to jump into a new conference. 

“I don’t think we are ready to go at this point in time, but I think we need to set some targets,” he explained. “There is going to come a time where we are going to have to do something, and I would prefer to be proactive rather than reactive. I think there are some things that could happen with the UIC in the blink of an eye, and all of a sudden, we find ourselves scrambling to find a place to belong and scrambling to find games to play. It is happening right now. [The UIC] has had to have a board decision in February of 2017 to require Postville to field a varsity girls’ basketball team. We are seeing things like that already happening.”

Matt Krambeer gave the board some statistics he gathered of NFV’s record versus NEIC schools, and the comments he received from other NFV coaches. He noted that NFV already plays about 80 percent of the NEIC teams in out-of-conference games. 

At the end of the discussion, the school board noted that it will continue to study the issue.

In other news, the board approved officially identifying the district as North Fayette Valley. The board needed to approve the resolution so that the properties that belonged to the previous two districts could be put in NFV's name. It then approved a number of quit claim deeds from each district to NFV, so it could take ownership of the buildings in its district. 

It also approved spending a maximum of $22,000 on playground equipment for Fayette Elementary. Willhite noted that there is a bunch of equipment for ball games to be played at recess but nothing for the younger kids to climb on. Since moving fourth grade down to the Fayette Elementary building the feedback he has been getting is that essentially fourth-grade students would rather climb on things, such as playground equipment, than play a ball sport. Willhite is getting prices for some different options and will move ahead with the purchase when ready. 

The board accepted the former AEA building located in downtown West Union. The AEA donated the building to the district for one dollar. It is the district’s intention to renovate the building and turn it into the downtown academy and alternative school. 

Finally, the school board held its annual meeting Monday night. Stacy Cummings and Alex Soderquist were elected school board president and vice-president, respectively.  Sue Thoms and Carol Nading were appointed business manager and school board secretary, respectively. Drew Bracken of Ahlers Law Firm in Des Moines and Jerem White of Elwood, O’Donohoe, Braun & White were selected as legal counsel for the district. The school board voted to maintain accounts at Bank 1st and Kerndt Brothers Bank in West Union and Elgin State Bank in Elgin as depository banks for the district. Also, The Fayette County Union and Elgin Echo will be the official newspapers of the district. Board meetings will continue to be the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. alternating between the high school and middle school unless otherwise noted. 



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