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Carlton, Wrenshall join forces for softball

The board voted unanimously to approve the proposal, which allows the teams to combine to form the Carlton/Wrenshall Raptors.

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CARLTON COUNTY — With only two weeks remaining before the official start of softball season, the Carlton and Wrenshall school boards voted to have the schools join forces for a co-op softball team at their respective meetings Monday, Feb. 28.

The agreement is only for this season.

The board established a goal of shrinking its budget deficit from $500,000 down to $250,000 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Co-op agreements are not new for the two schools, as they currently combine programs in boys and girls track and field, boys and girls cross-country and football as the Carlton/Wrenshall Raptors.

The topic of combining spring sports was initially broached in the fall between the school districts' administrators. Under the advice of Carlton coach Brent Pokornowski and Wrenshall coach Anna George, the discussion continued earlier this week and progressed rapidly with activities directors from both schools, along with administrators, who were all on-board with the agreement as well.

“They felt that they’d be pressing some young kids to play at the varsity level before they’re fully ready, which is something that we have experienced ourselves,” Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom said.

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“I would say if the shoe was potentially on the other foot (where) we had two or three varsity caliber players without really a full team around them, and there was a school in the area that would give the kids a better experience by joining, I think we would want them to say OK,” he added.

The Carlton/Wrenshall Raptors softball team will play its games at Chub Lake Field under the agreement. Wrenshall had previously played its home games at Braun Park in Cloquet. The money Wrenshall will save by moving out of Braun Park will go towards uniforms for the players, according to Engstrom.

The Carlton softball team is coming off of a 9-8 season in 2021 that ended with a 12-2 loss to Barnum in the Section 7A elimination bracket final. Wrenshall finished last season 4-12 after bowing out of the section playoffs with a 10-0 loss to Silver Bay.

In other business, the Carlton School Board continued its discussion about ways to cut its deficit in half for the next fiscal year. The latest budget estimate for this fiscal year forecasts a $500,000 deficit.

Action was not taken during the meeting with regards to cuts, but board members shared their viewpoints on where reductions should not take place.

“I said way back that I won’t accept teacher cuts,” Carlton School Board Treasurer Tim Hagenah said. “... I won’t cut teachers because of asinine decisions that have been made in the past. I just can’t. I think education is very important … I think we can make heavier cuts somewhere else.”

Hagenah made it clear that he prioritized cuts to co-curricular activities over reductions to teaching positions. Board Chair Julianne Emerson said she agreed with Hagenah that co-curricular activities should be on the table, but did not make a recommendation as to where the cuts should take place.

“It’s not an easy thing to talk about or an easy decision, but I do also agree that I don’t know that we can just leave it untouched,” Emerson said.

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Engstrom said he would gather information about potential cuts to co-curricular activities to bring to the board's next Committee of the Whole Meeting scheduled for March 14.

This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. March 1 with the outcome of the vote in Wrenshall. It was originally posted at 9 a.m. March 1.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONCARLTON SCHOOLSWRENSHALL SCHOOLSCARLTON
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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