Board approves Altoona to Mid-Penn

With opposition in the room from a gaggle of parents, the Altoona Area School Board voted 7-2 Monday to approve an associate membership to the Mid-Penn Athletic Conference for a two-year trial period beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

The move is only for football, both boys and girls basketball and varsity and junior varsity boys volleyball.

Board President John Donley, Wayne Hippo, Bill Ceglar, John Klingeman, Dick Lockard, Judy Berryman and Dutch Brennan approved the membership. Vice President Sharon Bream and Ron Johnston voted against it.

Bream made a motion to table the decision so that it would be saved for the four new board members elected in the Nov. 7 general election to decide. However, that motion was voted down and the membership was approved.

Dave Skelley addressed the board representing parents, taxpayers and players against the move from the WPIAL to Mid-Penn.

“Why hasn’t the administration not offered a meeting to address our concerns?,” he said.

While Skelley accepted the idea that teams could be more competitive in Mid-Penn than WPIAL, among his chief concerns was that he anticipated teams would have to travel further, thus increasing time away from academics.

Johnston took up the parents’ cause and voted against the move in favor of putting together an independent schedule.

“We gotta get back to hometown rivalries,” he said. “We can go independent, but it will take work.”

Hippo said the board has explored the practicality of independent scheduling during athletic committee meetings for years.

A woman in the crowd interjected “Can we see evidence of that? What schools have you spoken to?”

Athletic Director Phil Riccio answered that discussion has been ongoing for the past six years. He explained the predicament Altoona is in because it is a Class 6A school “landlocked” around smaller schools. If it were to go independent, the best case scenario is six games could be scheduled, leaving four others to be played in Maryland, Erie and New York.

“Going independent does not ensure a schedule,” Riccio said. “And travel would be worse (than going to Mid-Penn).”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.