Culture Maven: Bureaucratic hoop dreams

Mar 28, 2006 at 9:04 pm

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

Catchy words those, our state’s motto. Frankly — Frankfortly? — they rarely resonate. Especially when it comes to significant issues facing the Commonwealth.

Dark and bloody ground — there’s the truth. That’s what Kentucky means in some Native American tongue. That the phrase’s origin may derive from conflicts with neighbors north of the Ohio has been lost. It’s long an accurate descriptor of internecine battles spanning our state’s history.

Hatfield vs. McCoy.

Louisville vs. Everybody Else.

Equitable distribution of tax revenues.

The latest conflict mired in Us vs. Them discord is the public/private high school sports brouhaha. The state’s anti-Louisville bias is a not-so-subtle undercurrent. In the name of parity — paging the next Cuba Cubs? — this war could undermine the future of many teenage athletes.

The origin is longstanding rural vs. city jealousy. Not to mention tales of mysterious recruiting shenanigans.
For the past two decades, St. X, Trinity and Male (a traditional public school that picks its students from throughout Jefferson County) have dominated the AAAA state football championships. Only Shelby County, George Rogers Clark and Nelson County have bested that trio for a title in a score of years.

In boys hoops, eight of the last 20 champs hail from Jefferson County. Private schools LexCath and University Heights won two others, making the tally: Us 10, Them 10.

There’s a bit less consternation over girls hoops. But it is still there. Of the last 20 title-holders, a quarter came from Louisville. Five are parochial schools. (Although one must note this simmering issue boiled over after Sacred Heart captured three championships in a row.) Assumption’s domination in volleyball punctuates the problem.

Jeff Morrow’s J-town Chargers won this year’s boys hoop title. While it’s a magnet school, allowing administrators to choose some students to matriculate, there’s no fodder here for those naysayers who crave change. Morrow said he’s “most proud that 12 of 14 kids who dressed are from the J-town school district.”

Whither peace to the dilemma, and a reasonable resolution?

While the organizational chart is a confusing maze, it appears the state Board of Education has final say-so. It has delegated responsibility for a hopefully Solomonesque solution to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA). That organization’s Board of Control has 20 members — only two from Louisville, one from a private school.

That geographic/public-private disparity notwithstanding, if my memory is correct, the Board of Control didn’t approve the first proposal from KHSAA delegates. Known as Proposition 20, it would have, if enacted, separated competition between public and private schools. When the BOC advised the Board of Education of its discontent, that final authority tossed the “problem” back in the KHSAA’s lap.

Then the KHSAA BOC — enough initials for you? — set up a task force of more than 30 folks from around the state. The meeting rooms, I’m told, had a palpable “this side of the aisle”/“that side of the aisle” feel to them. Various “solutions” were offered. I’d love to discuss them, but they haven’t, as best can be determined, been offered for public scrutiny.

It has been reported that KHSAA Commissioner Brigid DeVries will present a proposal to the Board of Education at its April meeting. Exactly what it will contain is hard to determine. Like I said, there’s no official published documentation yet. Last week, attempts to contact DeVries, or any member of her staff that might provide details, were unsuccessful. The KHSAA receptionist said all were unavailable, attending the girls state tournament.

A number of local citizens are concerned. Justifiably so.

Apparently a system of feeder middle schools is being developed for each public high school. Under this plan, a kid who goes to a high school other than the one designated by the plan would be ineligible to participate in any sport for two years.

Jefferson County prepsters would take the biggest hit. Say a kid went to Holy Name, then enrolled at Shawnee for the Aviation Studies program. No sports for two years.

No telling what will be presented vis-a-vis kids from hither and yon attending private and parochial schools. Will a Catholic kid from Hazard be able to play ball for Newport Central Catholic, if that’s where he or she decides to go to school?

Stay tuned. News at 11.

This all seems self-righteously petty. Lost in the bickering is the best interest of kids.

There is no problem, really.

English teachers, close your ears: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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