BURLINGTON — Region 10’s Board of Education voted to move Lewis Mills’ athletic program from the Berkshire League to the Central Connecticut Conference beginning in the 2019-20 school year during a meeting at Har-Bur Middle School Monday night.
The 6-3 vote, with one board member absent, came after a year-and-a-half study by a four-person committee, aligning the Spartans in an eight-school southern division of the 32-member mega-conference.
Mills joins Bristol Eastern, Bristol Central, Plainville, Berlin, Platte-Meriden, Maloney-Meriden and Middletown in the new division, in which it goes from the biggest school in the BL with a 760-student population to the next-smallest after Plainville (707) as Class M schools in a largely Class L and LL conference.
The unanimous recommendation by the committee, headed by John Vecchitto, came largely on the basis of a shrinking school population in the 10-member BL, composed of three Class M and seven Class S Schools.
That, Vecchitto said, hasn’t produced enough junior varsity programs for Lewis Mills to compete against and, overall, has meant a shrinking level of competition.
“We would expect the first year to be rough,” Vecchitto said of the move. “But the CCC offers us a more reliable and consistent conference. If we don’t like it, we can change.”
Vociferous opposition came from a long line of speakers during the public part of the meeting before the board discussion, including two coaches and three members of the Lewis Mills swim team. The only voices in favor came from a Burlington resident who coaches in Farmington and a mother of three Spartan athletes.
Board member Susan Baccaro represented the member opposition. “Seventy-five percent of the people here don’t want us to do it,” she said. “I have a problem with that.”
The opposition was concerned that Mills will be in over its head in its new conference.
Girls basketball coach Al Ciarlo cited Wolcott Tech’s past issues playing in the Berkshire League after seeking better competition. Wolcott Tech struggled as a member of the Berkshire League and has since moved to the Connecticut Technical Conference).
Another coach cited Rockville’s issues competing in CCC, leading to jump to the smaller North Central Connecticut Conference last year.
Veccitto countered that his committee, in response to similar doubts presented a year ago in its first presentation, contacted Rockville and Avon to determine their experience, removing their own doubts.
“We’ve done our due diligence,” Veccitto said.
Mills athletic director Dave Francalangia agreed.
“They’ve done their due diligence,” he said. “We’re going to have to go out and compete and I think we will.”