By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
Sharon High Golden Eagles? Kennedy Tigers? The names will remain the same, but the faces of the players may change in the 2014-15 school year.
Kennedy Catholic Family of Schools’ board of education voted Monday to enter into a partnership with the Sharon School District to share teams in football, swimming, golf and tennis beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.
However Sharon’s school board has yet to make an official decision on Kennedy’s proposal. It was discussed at Monday’s athletic committee meeting, and recommended to be put on the agenda.
“A new era of Shenango Valley scholastic sports will begin,” Rev. Michael P. Allison, president of the Shenango Valley Catholic School System, said in a statement.
If the Sharon school board approves the agreement at the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, it will be hosting Kennedy student-athletes in junior high, junior varsity and varsity football, as well as boys’ and girls’ swimming. In exchange, Sharon students will be golfing and playing tennis under the Golden Eagles’ emblem.
“We approved the pact only after we determined that it would be an overwhelmingly net positive for KCFS,” Allison said.
Allison stated several reasons why the partnership is in the best interest of Kennedy students. One would be to keep Kennedy Catholic’s basketball program thriving.
In 2012, KCHS lost football players because of the “deteriorating football program” who would have started in basketball, according to Allison.
Kennedy’s last winning football season occurred in 2006 when Mike Donato, former 20-year Sharon assistant coach, served as head coach. Donato led the Golden Eagles to the 2005 District 10 Class A championship and a berth in the PIAA playoffs.
Donato resigned following the ’06 season.
A trio of successors subsequently guided the Golden Eagles, most recently Archie Donofrio.
However by the conclusion of this past season there were fewer than 20 players in uniform (grades 9-12) playing for the Golden Eagles, who ended 0-10.
Following is a portion of a joint press release from Sharon and Kennedy Catholic districts:
“This agreement is the product of intense talks between our administration and Sharon’s Board of Education, superintendent, high school principal, and athletic department,” Allison said. “We thoroughly discussed every aspect and implication of this arrangement, especially its potential impact on our respective students. We decided to move forward only after all parties determined that the pact would be an overwhelmingly net positive for both school systems and the community as a whole.”
Calla said that there are 89 similar co-op agreements already in place within PIAA District 10.
“Agreements of this type have become an increasingly common way for both public and private school leaders to preserve athletic programs as they deal with the twin challenges of declining enrollments and shrinking budgets,” he said. “When you have the right partner, as we do with Kennedy, co-op sponsorships make absolute sense from both an athletic and fiscal standpoint — especially when, as is true in this case, neither school has to spend additional money to make the agreement work.”
Allison believes the two systems have adopted a winning strategy.
“Our junior high and high school athletes will have the opportunity to participate in Sharon’s outstanding football and swimming programs,” he noted. “At the same time, we’re pleased and proud to offer Sharon students the chance to lend their talents to Golden Eagles’ golf and tennis teams that are perennial contenders for state, regional, district, and conference championships.
“By any measure this partnership strengthens the athletic programs at both schools.”
Both Allison and Calla said they expected the transitions involved to go smoothly if final approval is reached.
“Many students from both schools are neighbors who know, like and respect each other,” Allison said. “And because Kennedy and Sharon have never been ‘arch-rivals’, students will not be forced to overcome the hard feelings that can grow up over years of intense competition. We’re confident student-athletes from both schools will embrace each other as teammates from Day One.”