NSSD opposes state education move to take away local control of athletics and activities
MT. PLEASANT— At a special meeting on Nov. 23, the North Sanpete School District (NSSD) voted to oppose efforts by the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) to remove local-level control over high school athletics and activities.
The USBE sent an official ballot to all Utah school districts to support or oppose the USBE’s authority to regulate high school activities and to regulate the eligibility of athletic students who transfer schools before they play varsity ball.
Currently, student eligibility to participate in high school activities (including athletics) is determined by high school principals. Principals vote as members of the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Board of Trustees. These principals represent the actual teams that are competing, so decisions are currently made at the local level as much as possible.
The NSSD school board had concerns with allowing the USBE to regulate the UHSAA because the USBE’s proposed rule would allow charter schools that have no geographic boundaries to recruit student athletes before they reach varsity status, thus creating unfair competition for rural schools.
“The problem is that the NSSD classification for state competition not only includes Judge Memorial and Juan Diego, the Catholic private schools in Salt Lake, but the classification also includes American Leadership Academy and other large charter schools,” NSSD Superintendent Dr. Sam Ray said.
The biggest concern the board had was that a director of a charter school who also sits on the USBE board brought forth the rule and got it approved in the first reading, which the NSSD considers a conflict of interest.
A superintendent, who is a member of the UHSAA board, briefed district superintendents in a meeting on Nov. 7 and said they are going to have to settle with the USBE rule or it is likely that the State Legislature will come in and control the UHSAA.
Prior to the Nov. 7 superintendent’s meeting, the UHSAA board representatives met with members of the USBE to work out a compromise. However, after the meeting, the UHSAA board met and rejected the compromise agreement because it would give charters schools an unfair advantage in high school athletics, according to Ray.
Since the meeting, the board of trustees sent a survey to Utah school districts to analyze what level of support they have at a local level.
They asked the NSSD board president to sign off in approval or opposition to the rule and whether the board thinks the USBE or Legislature should control eligibility for athletics.
“My reading of the tea leaves is that they (the UHSAA) are trying to rally elected representatives at a local level,” Ray said.
Because of Ray’s background in high school administration, he said he feels the USBE does not have time to deal with eligibility issues. He also explained that eligibility issues are overwhelming and time-consuming for the USHAA members and that he believes the USBE does not have the staff or the budget to implement their proposed rule.
Ray said he believes the current local-level control of the UHSAA is best because principals represent local teams and the communities they play for.
“We would prefer to see the UHSAA continue to run it as it is, and not have the oversight of the politically charged state office and legislature,” said Ray, who also spoke for principal Nan Ault at the meeting. “Soon you’re going to have party politics controlling that on the State Legislature, but also controlling the USBE as well.”