Athletic co-op agreement presented to Carlton School Board

The Carlton School Board will vote on the measure at its next meeting, which is set for Monday, July 18.

Carlton-Wrenshall’s Jack Riley (7566) runs his way to a second place finish in the John Woodbury Invitational in Lake Nebagamon on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21, 2021.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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CARLTON — The Carlton and Wrenshall school districts inched closer to a formal Minnesota State High School League cooperative agreement in athletics and co-curricular activities after the Carlton School Board reviewed a tentative draft at its Monday, June 20, meeting.

The agreement, which would go into effect next fall, would apply to the junior high and varsity levels, and would require approval by the MSHSL, along with the Wrenshall and Carlton school boards, before it is officially implemented.

Carlton officials will vote on the proposal at its Monday, July 18, meeting, while the Wrenshall School Board is expected to hold its vote a week prior to Carlton.

According to the agreement, the Carlton-Wrenshall Raptors will field cooperative teams in boys and girls cross-country, football, softball and boys and girls track and field. Carlton and Wrenshall basketball and baseball teams will remain separate at this time.

Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom said that while there are no new sports added for the co-op agreement between the two schools, having a formalized agreement in place for the sports where co-ops already exist is a step in the right direction.


“We felt like even if we could come to terms on an agreement that was using the Moose Lake-Willow River language as a model, that would be a step forward even if we didn’t add anything else. Because it would just codify some processes and make things a little clearer on how they should work,” Engstrom said.

The co-op subcommittee hasn’t ruled out the possibility of adding more unified teams in the future. Board member Ann Gustafson said she hopes to see additions happen gradually.

“I would like to see it continue to be phased in together as time goes on, so there is a process laid out in there for the committee to meet quarterly, so kind of before each season,” Gustafson said.

Co-curricular activities tentatively included in the co-op are one- and three-act plays, knowledge bowl, robotics, science fair, Business Professionals of America (BPA), math league and Genders-Sexualities Alliance Club. Host schools for each activity have not been determined.

Revenue generated by the districts from admissions and passes will be split 50/50, according to the agreement. On the expenses side, half of final net costs will also be split 50/50. The districts will split the other half of the costs based on the percentage of students in grades 7-12 for Carlton and Wrenshall, respectively, compared to the combined enrollment of the two school districts. Officials will use student enrollment as of June 30 of the preceding participation year.

Pokornowski to head football program

Current Carlton-Wrenshall co-head softball coach Brent Pokornowski is set to expand his coaching duties in the fall after being named the new Raptors’ football coach at Monday’s board meeting.

Pokornowski replaces former head coach and current Wrenshall Activities Director Jeremy Zywicki, who took over the Wrenshall football program in 2008. Jake Anderson will serve as Pokornowski’s assistant coach.

The Cokato native was a two-sport standout in baseball and football at the University of Minnesota Crookston before entering the coaching ranks. Pokornowski previously served as an assistant coach with the Cloquet baseball program before taking over as the head coach of the Carlton softball team.


Due to low participation numbers, the Raptors are not expected to field a football team this coming season, but they hope to return to the field as a varsity program in the years to come. In the meantime, they will play a junior varsity schedule.

The Raptors went 1-3 last season in a shortened schedule due to COVID-19.

The board also approved hiring Brenda Knudsen as head coach of the Raptors’ cross-country teams for the 2022-2023 season, along with assistant coach Larissa Giebner.

The farm, located in Cromwell, was originally purchased in 1918 by Charles and Wilhelmena Anderson for $6.20 per acre.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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