JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education listened to more than an hour of passionate speeches Thursday night — against and in favor of a resolution to withdraw from the Foothills Council and join the Western Athletic Conference. In the end, the board voted 6-2 to “indefinitely postpone” the decision — at least until April 30, 2023.
School Board Vice President Joyel Richardson and board member William Stock voted against School Board President David D’Amore’s motion to postpone the decision, which was seconded by board member Arthur Schrum Jr.
Before the vote, D’Amore read a lengthy written statement lamenting the conflict that has divided members of the community into two camps, those in favor of moving to the WAC, where Johnstown’s sports teams would compete against teams from similarly-sized schools, and the supporters of Johnstown’s storied Lady Bills field hockey team, which has regularly been atop the Foothills Council for decades despite the district’s shrinking student population.
“With this one recommendation we have triggered a fault line that has laid hidden, just under the surface of our daily lives, that touches issues of ingrained notions of socioeconomic class, opportunity, preference, identity and ownership,” D’Amore said. “It’s there. It’s talked about at dinner parties and on sidelines, usually among close trusted friends, but never gets brought out to the daylight to get examined and tested against data and debate.”
D’Amore said he supports the move to the WAC, and believes more than a few school board members agree with that choice, but he recognizes the concerns of the parents, students and alumni of the district who want to make certain the field hockey program and its tremendous success will continue into the future.
“Based on my conversations with each board member, I am not convinced we have a clear view or consensus on where we’re heading, and this is too big an issue to decide by a narrow margin at this time,” D’Amore said. “I am recommending we indefinitely postpone this issue, set a deadline of April 30, 2023 and continue all further research and outreach necessary to secure the best outcome for all. This will allow our administration the time needed to answer our questions, facilitate dialogue, mend fences and work the phones to ensure a better outcome.”
D’Amore also recommended the board create a “Shared Decision Making Team,” made up of board members, school administration, coaches, parents and students to study all of the potential ramifications of any future board decision to leave the Foothills Council.