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Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015: Superintendents missed badly in making their case

   Leading off today: Section 5 Executive Director Ed Stores spoke extemporaneously and forcefully Tuesday at the regularly scheduled Athletic Council meeting for Rochester-area members of the NYSPHSAA.

   This was only minutes after a lengthy Executive Committee meeting had adjourned, and it struck me that he was remarkably concise and informative in summarizing what had just been discussed, how Section 5 came to take its present shape and what the roadmap going forward will look like as the local schools explore a new chapter in the public vs. private schools debate.

   On the way home that afternoon, it dawned on me that working through quagmires like this one is nothing new to Stores, who's already said he'll retire next spring. He has spent three decades in various Section 5 administrative roles and has been very involved at the state level as well.

   In fact, he served on a NYSPHSAA panel earlier this year that handled the appeal by Burke Catholic after that school was sanctioned by Section 9 following two investigations into recruiting allegations. Stores and two other hearing officers ultimately overturned the most serious penalty -- a year banishment from postseason play -- because they felt some key statements made to Section 9 investigators didn't support what a probe commissioned by five area school districts had seemingly turned up earlier.

   And there's the lesson to be learned by 18 Monroe County school superintendents who set off the latest fury by proposing the non-public schools be banished from the sectional and NYSPHSAA postseason: Relative to the case presented against Burke Catholic during a lengthy Section 9 process, the recent letter to NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas was thin on substance (read it here), thick on hyperbole, had almost no chance of swaying those versed in the mechanics of the state's largest governing body for high school sports and, as an added bonus, reeked of an entitlement mentality.

   As Zayas' response (read it here) noted in a most gentle fashion, the superintendents didn't even go barking up the right tree. The issue they raised is for Section 5 membership to ponder. If and when Section 5 develops an alternative to its own existing local playoffs system, it's free to bring that to the rest of the state membership for consideration. According to Stores, Zayas has reached out to administrators in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's 10 other sections and got back a collective yawn; they weren't buying what the Monroe County superintendents were selling.

   In fairness to the superintendents, they can absolutely take credit for one important positive. They opened a new discussion on a long controversial subject by at least offering an opinion as to what the proper remedy might be. It gives people a starting point for discussion, regardless of how unconvincing they were in attempting to make their case.

   Whether the discussion leads to policy changes remains to be seen. Already, a recently convened committee studying a so-called "parallel tournament" structure has tabled its work on the grounds that a one-size-fits-all approach to holding separate competitions for public and private schools does not work when it comes time to advance representatives to state tournaments, and sport-specific work-arounds would also lead to headaches.

   That decision to stand down for now had the added benefit of giving everyone more time to look at broader issues. If and when the "parallel tournament" concept is revived, job one might as well be figuring why charter schools were lumped in with private schools in the first go-round. Charter schools are actually public schools. Any argument I can think of for treating charters similarly to private schools in the context of the current discussion would require lumping traditional schools in the Rochester City School District (and probably Greece's four high schools) into the same sub-group as the private schools. (More on that later.)

My beefs with the supers

   As briefly as possible (but admittedly not brief enough), here's what pissed me off about the superintendents' letter aside from the aforementioned point that they sent it to the wrong office:

   (1) Go to the various online forums around the state dealing with high school sports and you won't have to search very long to find someone making the observation that the letter "P" in NYSPHSAA actually stands for Public. Now, anyone with an IQ above that of a potted plant


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  • understands that train left the station a long time ago. Numerous private schools were accepted into the organization beginning half a century ago; for whatever reason, the name of the corporation was never changed.

       I would have hoped that the superintendents understood as much -- but they didn't. They made reference to how the NYSPHSAA "was founded for the promotion of sports as integral to the public education system ..."

       Yes, it was. And all of the buggy whip manufacturers that still thrived around that time have long since gone out of business. It's called progress. Deal with it.

       (2) There can be no other way to interpret the third paragraph of the letter other than that the superintendents believe private schools are breaking rules regarding recruiting and that is why they "dominate to a degree wholly inconsistent with the premise of those rules and regulations."

       That's followed in short order by this:

       "It is our opinion, as well as the opinion of many in the public sector, that logic compels the conclusion that at least several of NYSPHSAA's non-public members, (sic) have built their sports programs upon the talents of outstanding students athletes enticed from their home public districts."

       I don't even know where to begin there.

       "Enticed from their home public districts" makes it sound like child abduction, complete with a shady character luring pre-teens to their car with offers of candy. If you're less inclined to look at it as kidnapping and more inclined to think of it as theft ... well, I believe the Civil War sort of settled the issue of treating people as property.

       The other assertions -- that private schools are operating outside the rules and it must be true because people say so -- is the same sort of stuff Section 5 and NYSPHSAA officials literally have been hearing for decades, typically unaccompanied by anything that might be construed as evidence.

       (3) Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence, the superintendents say. "A discussion of the exact manner or means of such solicitation is neither possible nor relevant in the context of this letter."

       Well, you can figure out the many things wrong with that train wreck.

    [ continued ]

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