OSAA has to go to state board on six-class system

- PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon School Activities Association
must go back to a state board for approval before it can set up a
six-class system for high school athletics, Superintendent of
Public Instruction Susan Castillo said Monday.


Castillo gave the association 30 days to take the new
classification system to the State Board of Education. The OSAA
said it would do so.


Her ruling did not address the merits of increasing the number of
classes from four to six.


The OSAA said it was increasing the number of classes to foster
competitive balance: Schools of more nearly equal size would be
playing each other more often.


Critics of the idea from Eugene, Medford and Salem said it would
require student-athletes to spend more time on buses traveling to
and from games.


Castillo's decision dealt only with how the OSAA went about
making the change. A statement from her office said the OSAA
"failed to obtain approval of the State Board of Education prior
to placing schools into new districts," violating a 2003 state law
requiring the approval.


The 2003 law followed a dispute over which league the Hood River
Valley High School would play in, participants in the current
dispute said.


The OSAA is comprised of Oregon schools who send representatives
to govern the body through a delegate assembly and an executive
board. The association's staff is headquartered in Wilsonville.


Its executive director, Tom Welter, said the group had gone to
the state board in September for approval of the criteria it used
to set up its classification and districts. The criteria include
such factors as geography, travel costs, enrollment and athletic
history.


"We thought that's what the bill required," he said.


Welter said the association remains confident in the merits of
the reclassification proposal. The OSAA's delegates voted 30-1 in
September in favor of the six-class setup.


"This is something the schools want," he said.


Joel DeVore, a Eugene lawyer representing the local school
district, said he hoped the OSAA would listen to Castillo's
decision and drop its plan.


He said the idea would be costly for the local schools. It would
mean more than $60,000 a year in additional fuel and the loss of
$50,000 in ticket sales as the Eugene schools travel farther for
games. Fans who would go across town for a game will be less likely
to drive to Medford, he said.


More important, he said, is the toll such travel will take on
students, who will more often be arriving home after midnight from
a road trip.


"The next day, they are sitting around groggy, not doing too
super-well in school," he said.


(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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