By CHRISTIAN KNIGHT
News staff writer
March 18, 2006
Less than seven months remain before the 2006 league season begins next year.
And though Phil Vesel, Hood River Valley’s athletic director, has already drawn up a Mt. Hood Conference schedule that positions the school’s teams at least four hours closer to their opponents, he and other school district officials still don’t know who those opponents will be or if the athletic schedule is valid.
They don’t know in which direction their buses will be heading, how much time their student-athletes will be sitting on those buses—instead of in classrooms—or how much the district will be spending on transportation.
Susan Castillo, the state superintendent of Oregon public instruction, ruled on Tuesday the Oregon School Activities Association’s decision to revamp the four-schools classification into a six-schools classification – which would have placed Hood River Valley into the Mt. Hood Conference instead of the Intermountain Conference – violated the procedure of Oregon law.
In addition, Castillo ruled OSAA’s intention to allow schools to decide whether to “play down” or “play up” to a smaller or larger schools without establishing a criteria for that decision violated one of the core mandates to the OSAA: to maintain an “athletic district balance.”
“OSAA’s failure to obtain approval of the State Board of Education to change provisions of Articles 6.1.5 prior to placing schools into new interscholastic activity districts violated ORS 339.430(3),” the decision said.
Article 6.1.5 is the provision that establishes school classifications according to their Average Daily Membership; the clause that says Hood River Valley with 901 students or more is a 4A school, whereas Cascade Locks with less than 116 students is a 1A school.
The state board of instruction gave the OSAA 30 days from the date of the ruling to obtain approval to change how Oregon classifies its schools in terms of size.
Gaining that approval will be the first legal step toward Hood River Valley’s shorter road to games.
If the OSAA cannot convince the state board of instruction to change its classification system, however, Hood River Valley will return to the Intermountain Conference of Bend, Pendleton and Hermiston.
“We’d be right back where we were,” Vesel said.
If the OSAA does earn that approval, it will then have to appeal to the state board for a re-districting.
“There’s still a chance that we could end up back in the Inter-mountain Conference, Vesel said. “It could go either way.”
Steve Walker, sports information director for the OSAA, was more confident of the eventual outcome.
“The OSAA is confident that the state board of education will support the outcome of the democratic process that took 13 months and was approved unanimously by superintendents, principals and athletic directors on the OSAA Executive Board and by a vote of 30-1 by superintendents, principals and athletic direcotrs on the OSAA Delegate Assembly,” he said.
Even if OSAA fails to re-draw Oregon’s high school sports map, Vesel believes the process and the outcome will benefit future Hood River Valley teams.
“It would establish a precedent that decisions are made based on travel time, class time and costs,” Vesel said. “Whereas when we were moved to the Intermountain Conference and we objected, they just said that’s the way it is.”
The ruling comes as a direct response to the appeals by Lane and Marion county school districts, which challenged the OSAA’s redistricting for the same reason Hood River Valley had supported it: that is, the redistricting increased Lane and Marion school district’s drive time.
“We knew when we began this process in September 2004 that we couldn’t please every school or school district,” said Steve Walker, sports information directo for the OSAA.
“We believe, however, that the six classification system represents the best effort by professional educators across the state to provide equitable competition for our member schools.”