OSAA ruling upheld

A hearings officer would not bend, so Hood River Valley High School athletes had better prepare for Bend.

And Crook County, and Pendleton, and other distant schools in the Intermountain Conference.

Following this week's ruling by a state-appointed Hearings Officer, HRVHS will remain in the IMC, barring a last-minute appeal by Hood River County School District in the long-standing dispute with Oregon School Activities Association.

And any further contest on the issue appears unlikely, said district superintendent Jerry Sessions.

"We'll try to make the best of it," Sessions said, "and move on." To Redmond, Hermiston, and the other eastern Oregon schools HRV seems destined to join in athletic competition. Under the move to IMC, Hood River Valley would leave behind Gresham, Central Catholic, Reynolds and other Mount Hood Conference rivals.

Hearings Officer Michael Reed issued his recommendation March 20 that the State Board of Education deny the school district's appeal of a December 2001 ruling by Oregon School Activities Association that HRVHS be shifted out of the Mount Hood Conference and into the Intermountain.

Sessions said the school board will consider further action, if any, in its next meeting, April 20 at HRVHS. In the meantime, Sessions said, he is considering writing a letter to the Department of Education "taking exception" to Reed's opinion. It is the department that makes the final decision on the OSAA decision.

However, any further contesting of the OSAA decision will drain school district resources.

"We knew we had a slim chance going this route," Sessions said of the appeal to the Department of Education. "It's rare a Superintendent of Public Instruction will overturn one of his own agencies," he said, referring to OSAA.

Sessions said the district knew that a basic philosophical difference existed between Reed and the district over the Hearings Officer's role. Reed looked at whether or not the OSAA had violated any law -- and ruled they had not -- while the district wanted Reed to look at "the bigger picture."

"We were tying to argue the kids' side of it," Sessions said. A poll of HRVHS students showed that more than 70 percent opposed the IMC move. Students and parents fear loss of instruction time and decreased family time on weekends required by long road trips to IMC schools.

Reed mentioned such impacts in his opinion, writing, "many Hood River families cannot afford any additional expenses. Many Hood River students have part-time jobs to help support their family.The move will force some to drop out of interscholastic activities and will cause other to have to quit their jobs. For those who continue to participate in interscholastic activites, the move will cause them to lose more class time, which could negatively affect their grades."

Reed continued, "parents are concerned with safety issues related to long-distance travel, and with the inability of many parents to attend games in distant cities to support their children, as well as with the likely negative impact on their children's grades caused by missing more class time."

However, Reed's ruling concluded that "the appellant (Hood River schools) has not pointed to any constitution, statute or rule that was violated by the OSAA Executive Board in making its decision . . ."

The district is now looking at how to adapt to the new conference.

"We'll probably just move ahead," said Sessions, adding that the district is drafting a plan that will involve cutting the activities budget, which includes athletics, by 20 percent. The plan will go to the district budget committee later this month, and is necessary in part because of the drastic cuts forced on the district by the state budget crunch, as well as the increased costs of going to the IMC. Athletic Director Glenn Elliott has said that competing in the IMC will mean an increase in costs of at least $30,000, mainly because of additional travel and lodging costs for road games to Redmond, Pendleton, or Bend.

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