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Ken-Ton scraps proposed football merger with charter school

Kenmore East High School football players will not be suiting up next season alongside students from a charter school located in the district.

A proposal to bolster low turnout for football at Ken East by allowing students from the Charter School for Applied Technologies to join the team was withdrawn Tuesday.

Dawn F. Mirand, superintendent of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, said that as district officials researched the proposal, “unique limitations and challenges were discovered as they pertain to liability and some legal issues.”

Mergers of athletic teams in two or more public school districts are increasingly common as enrollment or turnout for teams declines. But combining athletes from a public school and charter school is unprecedented in Section VI, which governs Western New York high school sports.

“Mergers with charter schools have been extremely rare,” Mirand said. “At least in Section VI, we know this has never been done before.”

Instead, two Ken East football coaches who are also teachers at other schools in the district will be transferred into the high school in the hope that their “face time” with students during the school day will result in more interest by students and a more successful program.

“Over the last month we’ve ascertained that we’ll have two moves, including the head coach, over to Kenmore East to solve some of those issues,” Athletic Director Brett Banker told the School Board during a budget work session.

Head Coach Pat Veltri, a health teacher at Franklin Middle School and Kenmore West, will be transferred to Ken East with an unnamed physical education teacher at Kenmore Middle School, which is closing at the end of the school year.

Banker warned that “the issue of low student turnout will not automatically be solved with this.” Ken East forfeited its first game last season because it didn’t have enough players.

He estimated that it will take at least a year of the new arrangement to see an effect because recruiting for football is done in the spring for the fall season.

“It may be a year or two before we really see the impact of Mr. Veltri being in the building,” he said.

School Board members said they were pleased with the alternative, after they had expressed concerns about the merger when it was proposed March 1. Charter schools are often seen as in competition with public schools for funding and students.

Trustee Bob Dana asked Banker how the district could prevent similar problems with other sports. Banker said the district should be “proactive” with after-school activities in the elementary and middle school grades, possibly by offering competition against private schools.

Banker said he notified CSAT on Tuesday that “we’re going to try to work internally on this” and thanked the charter school for supporting the proposed merger.