Onekama Consolidated Schools to move to Northwest Conference

ONEKAMA — The old saying about “you can’t go home” doesn’t pertain to the Onekama Consolidated Schools and the Northwest Conference.

Onekama Consolidated Schools Athletic Director Mary Jo Zadow reported on Monday evening to the board of education that the Portagers will be entering the Northwest Conference for the 2016-17 academic year. The move will end a 15-year association with the West Michigan D Conference.

Onekama Consolidated Schools superintendent Kevin Hughes talks to board members about the move to the Northwest Conference.

Onekama Consolidated Schools superintendent Kevin Hughes talks to board members about the move to the Northwest Conference.

“We were one of the charter members in the Northwest Conference when it began more than 35 years ago, so we are actually going home,” said Zadow. “They voted 8-0 to accept us back into the league that will include Frankfort, Benzie Central, Kingsley, Leland, Suttons Bay and Buckley.”

Zadow explained that Onekama would have the opportunity to compete in baseball, golf, basketball, softball, track, volleyball and cross country in league play.

“The ski team will continue to compete in the Lake Michigan Ski Conference and the football team will compete in the Northern Michigan Football Legends Division,” she said. “That will be 11-man football as many smaller schools are going to the eight-man football teams.”

A discussion ensued about the co-op sports programs as Onekama does that in cross country and track with Bear Lake. They also do it for swimming and wrestling with Manistee High School. School officials were adamant about continuing those co-ops in their present form which meant that Bear Lake is the host school for cross country and they would compete in the West Michigan D League. MAPS is also the host for the swimming and wrestling and those would remain in the present status.

“That is going to be up to Bear Lake if they want to make any changes with cross country, as they are the host school and it has been a very good agreement,” said superintendent Kevin Hughes.

Board members stressed they were not looking to change that cross country agreement or any others for that matter.

“We are not looking to break up that Bear Lake co-op,” echoed board president Sally Koon.

Zadow pointed out that it appears that Onekama and Mesick might be switching places in their respective current leagues. She said rumors have it that Mesick is looking to move to the West Michigan D League for the 2016-17 school year.

Hughes pointed out that the the conference goes beyond athletics.

“There is more than the sports, as it brings about with activities like Quiz Bowl, mass band and other things with the principals and curriculum,” he said.

In other action items from the meeting the board took action to name board member Jerry Brown as the voting designate in the June Manistee Intermediate School District board of education election.  Board member Mike Action was named as the alternate in the event that he can’t attend.

Positions on the ISD board of education are filled by votes of the respective school boards and not the general public.

The board also took action to name board members Acton, Karl Domres and Mickey Story to the handbook committee. They will be meeting with principal Gina Hagen, parents, coaches and teachers at 5:30 p.m. on May 11 to discuss any possible changes in the books.

Hagen said this is an important task for this committee.

“I want some guidance and input on this as there are a lot of gray areas out there in the present handbooks and especially in the athletic handbooks,” she said.

Board members also named Story, Acton and Lynn Mathieu to the scholarship committee. Each year the board presents a scholarship to a graduating senior from the board and it will be their duty to make that selection.

Editor’s note: Due to the length of Monday’s meeting and deadline constraints the remainder of items from Monday’s meeting will be published in an upcoming edition of the News Advocate. 


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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