Decorah School Board considers new athletic conference affiliation

By Roz Weis,

Decorah Community School District (DCSD) Board of Directors met with administrators Wednesday night to discuss Northeast Iowa Athletic Conference (NEIC) realignments and possible new conference affiliation.

Following a lengthy debate, Board members voted to request a seat at the table in discussions with another area conference, in the event the NEIC dissolves. Board members voted unanimously to send a letter of inquiry and exploration to the Upper Iowa Conference.

There are currently six members of the shrinking NEIC, which dates back to 1920. Member-schools currently include Decorah, Charles City, Crestwood, New Hampton, Waukon and Waverly-Shell Rock. The Waverly-Shell Rock School District has announced plans to leave the conference after this school year, and other member-districts have expressed concern over the NEIC’s future.

In recent weeks, the Howard-Winneshiek Board of Education authorized its superintendent to formally request admission to the Upper Iowa Conference. In response, the Charles City Board of Education granted approval to its superintendent to inquire about moving to the North Central Conference. These moves by other member-districts in leaving the NEIC forced Decorah District officials to look at conference alternatives as well.

School administrators have said potential new conference membership options for Decorah are limited due to the district’s geographic location. In recent days, the administration and Board have been monitoring developments, seeking feedback from the community, and evaluating the District’s options moving forward.

Upper Iowa Conference (UIC) member-schools are Central, Clayton Ridge, Eastern Allamakee, MFL MarMac, North Fayette Valley, Postville, South Winneshiek, Turkey Valley and West Central. Travel distance for competition was an important consideration for local administrators and coaches. The travel distance to games for Decorah athletes and parents is estimated at an average of 40 miles within the UIC.

Board members agreed that retaining the historic NEIC conference is important, but reaching out early to other conferences is in the best interest of students.

Board Vice President Ron Fadness stressed, “I think the important thing we should be fighting the hardest for is retaining the NEIC, but given that we only have few options if the NEIC goes away, we need to start the ball rolling.”

“The conference climate is changing statewide,” Board President Cindy Goodner said Wednesday night, “We (Decorah) are uniquely big and uniquely rural. And we all want to do what’s best for our kids and our community.”

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