Coast Union High School’s continued enrollment slide has hit athletics hard, and more talented departures are expected for the upcoming academic year.
The parents of incoming freshmen Michael Sison, Anhase Martin and Ryan Kasper — multiple-sport athletes who most recently starred for Cambria’s Little League programs — are sending their sons to Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo.
The decisions is exemplary of the trend of declining enrollment numbers at a time when Coast Union Unified School District cuts back on teachers and academic programs. School board chair Del Clegg said the district’s attendance (for the grammar school, middle school and high school) was 1,010 in the 1998-1999 academic year. Today, Clegg reports that district attendance is down to 606 students.
The boys varsity basketball team had just eight players this past season, for example. Longtime head coach Tim May resigned after a successful 13 years leading the program, and there is question over whether the school will be able to field a team for the upcoming season; a replacement for May has yet to be named.
Meanwhile, the Broncos baseball program will be impacted substantially in 2019. Just two Little League players — Emi Pena and Alan Nunez — will stay in Cambria and play for coach Brian Machado’s Broncos as freshmen.
The parents of Sison, Anhase and Kasper, however, cited factors other than athletics behind their decisions to opt for Mission Prep over Coast Union.
“Mission Prep offers a faith-based education centering on scholarship and service, caring and inspiration and leadership and accountability,” Bob Kasper wrote in an email.
The Kaspers also said the wide variety of electives and AP classes at Mission Prep appealed them. As for athletics, it was a “small factor” in the family’s decision; albeit their son will go out for baseball, cross country and basketball.
“The (Mission Prep) sports programs are very well run,” said Bob Kasper.
In 2017, Aidan Kasper received the annual Steve Kniffen Award for outstanding leadership on and off the baseball field, sportsmanship and a true love of the game.
Sison’s father, Jonathan Sison, who recently served two years as Coast Union’s principal, said that during the family’s two visits to Mission Prep, they were impressed with the school’s “personalized learning opportunities, small classes and several counselors to support students (by) providing counseling that is tailored to the individual student.”
He said his son is also “very excited” to participate in Mission Prep’s athletic programs — including baseball, basketball and possibly cross country — and the school’s arts programs.
“He’s a passionate musician,” and he will pursue student leadership and campus ministry opportunities as well, he added.
Another dynamic came into play as the Sison family made their decision about Michael’s future education: “The dissatisfaction expressed by parents, students and school and Coast Unified District staff… and the upheaval at (school board) meetings seem to reflect a beleaguered district in constant turmoil,” Jonathan Sison said.
Anhase’s father, Kyle Martin, principal at Santa Lucia Middle School, offered an email response about why his family is sending their son to Mission Prep rather than Coast Union: “Our family has been extremely pleased with our son’s education and experience in the Coast Unified School District. Coast Union High School is absolutely a great fit and the right choice for many students and families.
“For a variety of personal reasons our family is making a different choice that we hope is best for us.”
Martin’s baseball skills could perhaps be the most missed of the three, and he also received the “Top Athlete” award at Santa Lucia Middle School’s eighth-grade graduation this spring.
He has shown remarkable skills pitching, fielding and hitting. In two games against the Atascadero All Stars, Martin had eight hits, scored seven runs, drove in five and stole six bases.
On July 9, in the Coast playoff game against the Luckie Waller All Stars from Orange County, Martin pitched four quality innings in the first game, had two hits, stole three bases, scored three runs and made a sensational over-the-shoulder catch in left field. In the second game, he pitched three shutout innings, hit a three-run home run, drove in seven runs and scored four.
At Mission Prep, he plans to go out for basketball, cross-country and of course baseball, Kyle Martin said.
“As the former Reds Little League coach, I can say these three kids (going to Mission Prep) were some of the best players I had the honor of coaching,” Assistant Coast Union baseball coach Gary Stephenson said.
The three “could blossom in the conditions that exist at Mission,” Stephenson continued.
But as to parents’ decisions to eschew Coast Union, he added in an email interview: “We’re focused on who we have, not who we don’t.”
Machado put it this way: “It’s out of my control where parents want to send their kids. We’re going to play this game with or without them, whomever they may be.”
He added: “It’s like poker: You’ve got to play the cards you have in your hand.”