‘Damaging’decision affecting runners

On June 27, the Fredonia school board decided against reappointing Carol Zirkle as one of the coaches for the cross-country team.

The Fredonia school board has made the sudden and surprising decision not to reappoint Carol Zirkle as coach for the 2017 cross country season, putting the entire season in jeopardy for about 40 athletes who are currently signed up for the boys and girls teams.

We are asking the school board to immediately reverse this decision and rehire Coach Zirkle. It is vital that this action happens immediately, given that training for cross country begins in summer, as athletes become conditioned for competition in the fall. Any delay in reappointing Coach Zirkle may decrease the quality of our team’s performance during the 2017 season.

Carol Zirkle has been coaching cross country at Fredonia for more than 20 years. She brings tremendous experience, she has an excellent record of sending athletes to sectionals and states, and she has led teams to overall wins at counties and sectionals.

Her coaching skill also led the Fredonia girls basketball team to states in 2017. We think Coach Zirkle’s reputation as a fair and experienced coach, as well her ability to create a positive and supportive team environment, has led to growth in the cross country program for the upcoming year.

We can only speculate on why the school board decided not to reappoint Carol Zirkle as coach but our guess is that it involved complaint from one or a very few parents or athletes about specific coaching decisions.

We understand that athletes will not always be happy with coaching decisions. However, the loss of Coach Zirkle has the real potential to negatively affect dozens of other student athletes. The consequences of this decision are especially damaging given that Coach Mark Fitzgerald, who has been Coach Zirkle’s partner in cross country for decades, has decided this year to step away from coaching high school cross country in 2017.

We are very thankful that, in Coach Fitzgerald’s absence, Coach Tom Stokes, parent of two Fredonia cross country athletes, has agreed to help coach in the upcoming season, but having one coach for two teams (boys and girls cross country) with approximately 40 student athletes is not sufficient.

We also know that Coach Stokes has teaching responsibilities in Westfield that make it very difficult to schedule practices for our team in Fredonia.

We simply cannot see how cross country at Fredonia can be viable in 2017 without either Coach Zirkle or Coach Fitzgerald. Therefore, we again request that the Fredonia School Board immediately rescind their decision and reappoint Carol Zirkle as coach for the 2017 cross country season in time for her to participate in summer training.

If there is a parent or athlete whose complaint led to this decision by the school board, we ask you to please consider the wellbeing of all of the other student athletes who will very likely suffer as an outcome of this decision.

We ask you to personally petition the Fredonia school board to re-hire Coach Zirkle for the overall good of a large number of hardworking student athletes. Fredonia cross country, under the leadership of Coach Carol Zirkle, has helped many students learn valuable life lessons and has changed the lives of so many young people for the better. We ask that you allow this to continue in fall 2017.

Emily Brown, is a student and member of the Fredonia cross country team, and William Brown and Michelle Kuns are parents residing in Fredonia.