Farmington to vie in South Suburban Conference

School Board approves move to new conference

by Jennifer Chick
Sun Thisweek

It’s official. Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, Farmington Area Public Schools will become a part of the South Suburban Conference.

The move was approved at Monday night’s regular Farmington School Board meeting. One resident spoke during public comment in favor of the move, and the board unanimously approved the action during new business.

“I’m excited about the discussion you are having about going with the South Suburban Conference,” said Farmington resident Mitch Snobeck. “I see so many positive things that can come about with this opportunity.”

He said there are many academic reasons to consider the move. Because Farmington is a late-start school, he said athletes often have to leave before the end of the school day. Shorter travel distances will mean less time away from the classroom. With the move, Farmington will be cutting its travel distance against conference opponents by more than half.

Currently, Farmington is a member of the Missota Conference. The average distance to travel to Missota schools is 27 miles. That would be cut to an average of 12 miles in the South Suburban Conference. The move would cut transportation costs and mean less time spent on the road, district officials say.

Snobeck said he understands citizens’ concerns about a higher level of competition, but he does not see that as a negative.

“Farmington has some of the best facilities in state,” Snobeck said. “We can compete and we will compete because you will rise to that level of competition. I don’t think that’s a worry, that should be a secondary thought. I think it’s a decision that is forward thinking. It’s a short-term decision that will have long-term ramifications to improve our school, as well as our kids’ education.”

The South Suburban Conference features schools from neighboring districts such as Lakeville, Rosemount and Apple Valley. Bloomington Jefferson is the most distant SSC school from Farmington. Prior Lake left the Missota Conference in 2010 to join the South Suburban Conference. Farmington is the second-largest school in Missota in terms of enrollment and is growing. In the South Suburban, Farmington’s enrollment number would place it in the middle of the pack.

Board Member Jake Cordes asked Farmington Activities and Athletic Director Jon Summer about the Missota Conference’s future. Summer said nothing is final yet, but he did know that Shakopee and Red Wing districts have both approved moves to other conferences. Shakopee is looking to become a part of South Suburban. Other Missota schools are talking about forming a new conference.

“There is some truth to the fact that if the board decided not to do this, there may not be much of a home to go back to,” Summer said.

Board Member Julie Singewald said she cautiously supports the move, but she wants to make sure the district strives for success in the more competitive conference.

“I understand learning to lose, but making the climate not ‘It’s OK to lose,’ but how do we give you the tools to be successful and work to win?” she said. “That’s what we are doing academically … but they need to see the successes in the classroom and also out on the athletic field.”

Summer believes joining the South Suburban conference will not be detrimental to student athletes.

“I firmly believe our kids can rise to that challenge as well,” he said. “Going into that group of schools, I think it is a challenge our kids can embrace, our community can embrace, our coaches, our administrators, our teachers. This is more than just athletics.”

In other business, the board approved a resolution to discontinue and reduce programs and positions. Farmington Communication and Marketing Coordinator Jim Skelly said the board has determined it must reduce $1 million from next year’s budget because of a projected budget deficit. As administrators and board members begin evaluating programs and positions, this resolution will allow them to take the action necessary to make those cuts. No cuts have been determined at this time but will be decided upon sometime this spring.