A Batavia City School District trustee who held up approval of a merger between the Batavia and Notre Dame hockey teams at the district's school board meeting on Thursday afternoon met with the schools' athletic directors and coaches and said he had his questions answered and looks forward to the agreement being on the board's next agenda.
The Batavian has attempted to clarify with John Marucci that his statement means he intends to vote in favor of the merger but he has not responded to two emails.
Three Four other members of the board have responded to emails and said they intend to support the measure. One hasn't responded.
Previously, The Batavian emailed five questions to Marucci about his apparent objections to the merger, trying to clarify his position and didn't get a response until yesterday. He didn't provide answers to the question but did make this statement:
I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. Just so you know that today at 3:15, I was able to meet with BCSD BOE President Alice Ann Benedict, BCSD AD Mike Bromley and hockey coaches Marc Staley and John Kirkwood. We had a very lengthy and thorough discussion about the proposed merger between Notre Dame and Batavia as it pertains to hockey. I feel very satisfied that I had my questions and concerns answered and look forward to having this item on our agenda for our August 5th BCSD BOE Meeting.
At last week's meeting, Marucci expressed concern about other schools in the county being eased out of a combined hockey program with Batavia and that once current players from those districts have graduated, students at those schools would have to attend Notre Dame if they wanted to play hockey. He suggested Notre Dame recruits athletic students and that he was concerned the merger wouldn't be fair to Batavia students.
Our questions to Marucci included trying to find out how the merger wouldn't be fair to Batavia students. He didn't answer that question.
At the meeting, he said, "I just want clarification," and, "I'm not trying to be that guy but I guess I'm being that guy."
With two seats vacant on the board due to resignations and one person absent, Marucci's unwillingness to vote to approve the agreement meant there wasn't a quorum, so the board had to table the matter until its Aug. 5 meeting.
The merger would mean Notre Dame, which has won two sectional championships in recent years under Head Coach Marc Staley, and Batavia players would form a single unit.
Last week the schools announced the new team would be known as Batavia United.
Advocates of the merger argue that the merger would allow both schools to have a JV program, which will help produce a more successful program and end the dangerous practice of including JV-aged and -sized kids on varsity rosters.
And yes, students at schools such as Le Roy, Alexander, Oakfield-Alabama, and Pembroke, who want to play hockey in the future, will need to attend a private school such as Notre Dame. Which is how it was for those schools before Batavia, in a bid to increase its hockey numbers seven years ago, accepted those schools into its hockey program.
Since that realignment, Batavia has won 13 games with only two of those wins coming against Section V opponents and no wins against teams with winning records.
The merger is going to get the support of at least three trustees.
Statement from Alice Benedict:
I wholeheartedly support the Batavia Notre Dame Hockey merger. It will help both schools be able to offer hockey opportunities for grades 7 through 12.
Statement from John Reigle:
Thank you for reaching out to me regarding the hockey merger.
As you are aware we tabled the agenda item at our last school board meeting for some final clarification and questions. It is a big decision for our district and I’m glad our board of education is putting in so much collaborative thought and consideration into the topic. Unfortunately, our athletic director and/or the coaches were unable to attend the last meeting to have more discussion on the topic. However, it is my understanding they were able to meet with our board president and Vice President yesterday to discuss.
After speaking with some hockey families from both schools, along with learning more of Coach Staley’s & Coach Kirkwood’s goals and intentions for the United program, I am in favor of the merger. I look forward to bringing back a competitive hockey program to our city that the student-athletes, our schools, and our community are proud of.
Statement from Barbara Bowman:
I am in complete support of the hockey merger because it will be advantageous to BHS and ND students and the community in general.
Newly elected Trustee Jennifer Lendvay did not respond.
UPDATE: Lendvay's statement:
I am in favor of the merger of the BHS/ND hockey teams and look forward to seeing them play.