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updated: 10/27/2010 11:22 PM

Dist. 94: Leaving conference better for athletes

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When you visit Community High School District 94's website, the first story linked is a news report about the West Chicago school's first DuPage Valley Conference championship in girls volleyball in 31 years. If a plan pushed by school officials goes through, that championship may be one of the last DVC titles the school wins in any sport.

About 60 community members, including five members of the board of education, attended a public forum at the school Wednesday to seek answers about a plan to withdraw from the conference and become an independent in all sports.

School Principal Moses Chang spent about an hour answering questions by those in attendance and the concerns ranged from additional travel costs to a lack of all-conference opportunities for the athletes.

"That's one of the down sides of being independent," Chang said about the conference honors. "You don't have that ability to say, 'We won conference.' I recognize that. This proposal is not perfect but overall it provides a more positive experience for all athletes."

The proposal, which would not go into effect until 2012 and still needs board approval, would withdraw the school from the DuPage Valley Conference and force school officials to schedule the team's games, rather than rely on the conference for a majority of them.

Chang said the goal is to create schedules that makes all programs more competitive. After a presentation that laid out the benefits of going independent, Chang said the move would improve morale among some athletes because of the schedules. However, he also did not rule out a return to a conference in the future.

"The ultimate goal is to create programs that are going to bring a positive experience to your kids," he said. "If independence is the way to do that, then we'll follow that route. Should things occur and a new conference opportunity (would do that), we'll certainly entertain that possibility."

Chang stressed that the decision is not based on one sport's success. However, parents in attendance said the signs pointed to a football team that has lost all six conference games this year after a winless 2009 DVC season.

"That's what it seems like it boils down to," said Mary Dastych, whose sophomore daughter is on the school's softball and basketball teams. "They say they are looking at the athletic programs as a whole but the focus seems to be on one sport."

Dastych said the school should try to swap conferences with another school which Chang said DVC officials have indicated little interest in that move or build up the feeder programs. Athletic Director Doug Mullaney said the feeder programs have made some progress but that the move to independence will benefit all programs.

"It's important that we research, do the right thing and put everything in order to make the move," he said. "West Chicago needs to make improvements for our kids to equal the playing field."

Mullaney acknowledged that the school has some programs that have done well, including the volleyball program that was winless just three years ago. But he said the presentation, which included historical data that indicated the school has lagged in performance since the '70s, showed that the move is not based on one program. Also, he said the level of participation in sports puts the school at a disadvantage.

"It really is about all of the programs," he said. "From 1975 to 2010, it is very clear we have been trying to keep up with the Joneses."