IS MORE BETTER?
Following in the footsteps of the Oregon School Activities Association's big shakeup to a six-classification prep system in 2006, the next classification and districting committee has been formed and hopes for a smoother ride this time around while acknowledging that is not an easy task.
"It's a complicated issue," said Churchill athletic director Tim Carmichael, who was selected to the committee as a representative of the Oregon Athletic Directors Association. "If there is a perfect solution out there, I hope we find it. I hope when we are done everyone is happy, but if that doesn't happen, then we will work with what we've got."
The committee's responsibility is to fit 295 state high schools into classifications based on size and then sort them into leagues based on geography.
"You know that you can't begin a process like this that affects so many people and have it go without incident or have someone upset," committee chairman John Harrington said. "In a democratic process you let everyone speak to the extent they wish and then you have to make a decision. Ours is a recommendation, not a final decision."
The final decision will once again be made by the OSAA executive board, which spurred an uproar in Eugene, Medford and Salem three years ago with a decision that was supported by many others around the state.
In 2005, the executive board approved a recommendation by the classification and districting committee that expanded the four-classification system to six classes. Locally, the big news was the breakup of the Midwestern League when Sheldon and South Eugene were sent to the 6A Southwest Conference while Thurston, Springfield, North Eugene, Churchill, Willamette and Marshfield remained in the 5A Midwestern League.
Those changes led the Eugene, Medford and Salem-Keizer school districts to challenge the OSAA decision in court before the new system was eventually upheld and implemented for the 2006-07 school year.
While still controversial locally, the six-classification plan has gotten mostly positive reviews around the state, particularly among the smaller schools. OSAA executive director Tom Welter said athletic directors were surveyed during a conference in April regarding their support of the six-classification system and the vote was 221-32 in favor of the system. Twenty-six of the 32 negative votes were cast by 6A athletic directors.
The OSAA sets up its classification and districting process in four-year time blocks and halfway through the current system, it is time for a new classification and districting committee to begin its work. The 15-member committee was approved by the OSAA executive board last week and will convene for its first organizational meeting on Friday.
"That meeting will be for them to see each other face-to-face for the first time, because many of the members don't know each other, and we will walk them through where we are in the process, what the committee did last time, and give them enrollment figures," Welter said.
That begins a process that is expected to last at least 13 months, although legal appeals last time around extended that timeline by one full school year.
Welter said the committee will likely hold six public meetings during the current school year before hopefully zeroing in on a recommendation by May. The committee will reconvene in the fall and get updated enrollment figures before presenting its final recommendation to the board in October 2009, and the board will have the final vote at that time.
The public meetings will probably be set during Friday's meeting and are likely to be in October, November, January, February, April and May. The committee will report on its findings after each meeting.
"I would think by April or May they will have narrowed down what direction they are going," Welter said. "Following each meeting, we will send out an update to each superintendent, athletic director and principal saying the committee reviewed a certain amount of correspondence, deliberated and discussed, and now this is the direction it is going right now and we invite your feedback."
The board is chaired by Harrington, the former Oregon quarterback and father of ex-Duck Joey Harrington who is in his first year as president of Central Catholic High School. Harrington has spent his career working in high school sports and administration and is also a former president of the OSAA executive board.
Harrington, a former football coach at Barlow High School, was the principal at David Douglas for 13 years before retiring in 2004. He was not working in schools when the last classification and districting process took place, and Harrington said he followed it only from afar.
"I've been away, so I wouldn't pretend to say I have a real in-depth insight into how it has gone," Harrington said. "I understand at least from the athletic directors' perspective that the vast majority of them supported it at its inception, and I heard that at the state athletic director's meeting the vast majority were still in favor of it.
"From a logistical standpoint, that's all I really know. I have not been in conversations with principals and short of reading the papers - I spent most of my career at 4A and knew where everyone was and now I have to stop and rethink where people are - I really don't have a strong insight as to how well it is working. Is it better than it was before? It sounds like it is, I guess. I've been away a few years, and that could be a good thing. I am not coming in with any strong prejudice."
The committee features a representative from each of the six classifications, as well as one at-large member from 6A/5A/4A and one from 3A/2A/1A.
In addition, there are representatives from the Oregon Athletic Directors Association, Oregon Athletic Officials Association, Oregon Athletic Coaches Association, Oregon School Boards Association, as well as a representative for school activities. OSAA executive board member Jack Henderson is a nonvoting member of the committee.
An additional slot was created this year for a representative of the Oregon Department of Education after that office adopted rules for the OSAA to consider in the process.
"After the last go-round, we proposed that the State Board of Education be allowed to appoint a member to the committee," Welter said.
The charge of the committee requires it to take public input and consider school enrollment, location, preference, history and safety among the items to make a decision.
This year's committee was given three additional items to consider, including improving competitiveness between public and private schools as well as adjusting enrollments based on a school's socio-economic status.
The committee can recommend keeping the current six-classification system or altering it with more or fewer classifications. It can also adjust the cutoff points for each classification and increase or decrease the number of leagues.
The process begins anew this week and will last more than a year. While the final verdict is unlikely to please all sides, Harrington said he plans to be sure all opinions are voiced and done so in a rational manner.
"I am hopeful the conversations back and forth between the committee and whoever provides testimony will be reasonable and professional, and I would expect that is the way I will run the meetings," Harrington said. "I would expect nothing less than that."
RECLASSIFICATION's EFFECT ON THE MWL
League titles for each school during the two years before and after reclassification moved South Eugene and Sheldon to 6A.
School 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
Churchill 5 5 4 2
Thurston 0 2 7 11
Willamette 1 0 1 2
North Eugene 0 0 4 4
Springfield 0 0 0 0
Marshfield 0 2 3 2
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Sports; Classification and districting committee set to take another look at the six-class system|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Sep 24, 2008|
|Previous Article:||Sheldon stays in tie for top spot.|
|Next Article:||Ritchie's dilemma could become a constant at Pleasant Hill.|