Lone Fisher girl who plays for the Pirates will be allowed to continue

    The Crookston School Board on Tuesday approved the dissolution of boys’ and girls’ hockey co-op agreements between Crookston and the Fisher School, and then approved a new girls’ hockey co-op agreement with Mayville-Portland and Hatton schools that will also allow the lone Fisher girl who plays for the Pirates, incoming sophomore Dana Conley, to continue playing with the Pirates until she graduates, if she so chooses. Essentially, Conley is being grandfathered in; no other Fisher students who want to play hockey for the Pirates will have that option going forward.

    Speaking to the Times on Wednesday, Superintendent Jeremy Olson acknowledged that his recommendation to the board that they dissolve the hockey co-ops with the Fisher School District is driven by student enrollment. Specifically, he said, it’s about open enrollment, and the fact that well over 100 students each day open enroll to the schools in Fisher and Climax.

    Stressing more than once that he wants to be “very respectful” to the schools in Fisher and Climax, Olson said when he was hired last year by the school board, one of his primary charges was to stem the open enrollment tide that has Crookston Public Schools losing far more students than it attracts.

    “This comes down to open enrollment, and, right now, hockey is one of those things that parents change schools for,” Olson tells the Times. “I guess I’m sort of betting that, over time, people will decide to come to Crookston, or they will stay in Crookston and not go elsewhere, because of our hockey program here.”

    It’s basically a business decision, he added. “Walmart doesn’t give their best pricing to Target or K-Mart,” Olson continued. “I’ve been charged with trying to increase enrollment. I’m not trying to badmouth anyone.”

    The superintendent also noted that in the younger grades, Crookston youth hockey participation numbers are relatively strong.

    Olson said if the Crookston hockey program was is only concern, he wouldn’t have recommended that the co-op agreements be dissolved, because the more players, the better. “My concern is the overall health of the district and that’s why I made this recommendation to the board,” he said.

Support at meeting

    Conley herself had emailed Olson asking that he continue the co-op agreement. Others attended Tuesday’s board meeting to express their support for Fisher girls in the Crookston hockey program and ask the board to reconsider its decision. Among them was Andrea McDonald, who said she has three daughters younger than high school age who play hockey in Crookston.

    “I feel like we are a Fisher family, we have a Fisher address and our kids have been going there all along,” McDonald said. “I think it would be terrible to ask them to move schools to play the sport they love.

    “The reason we started them in Crookston hockey was because the co-op existed,” she continued. “I don’t want to disrupt their lives and force them to move schools. I don’t think kids should have to choose between sports and school. …This would be devastating to our family.”

    Olson said he understood McDonald’s concerns, but that his recommendation is that continuing the hockey co-op with Fisher “is not in our best strategic interest.”

    Pirate girls’ hockey head coach Tim Moe told the board he’s “always been about opportunities for kids” and that he hopes the co-op with Fisher can be revisited “to give kids, all kids, opportunities.”

    With the addition of a girl from Hatton, the girls’ hockey co-op with Mayville, Portland and Hatton will bring six players to the Pirate girls next season, Moe added.