Separating private schools into their own division, splitting Class 1A back into two divisions and upping the amount of time transfer students must sit out are among the proposals that will go before the Kansas State High School Activities Association Board of Directors at its September meeting on Wednesday.
Paola High School principal Jeff Hines, who’s one of the state’s crusaders to change how private schools are classified in KSHSAA, will have the Frontier League's proposal to separate private schools entirely into separate divisions come up for discussion and a vote.
“I’m hopeful that there is a spirited debate,” Hines said. “One of the things I intend to include in my remarks is that nobody in the room can say that we have the best system possible for our students.”
Labette County High School principal Shane Holtzman, who is the SEK League’s representative on the KSHSAA board, said he’s still unsure how he’ll cast his vote on the separation proposal.
“It’ll depend on what the arguments end up being,” Holtzman said. “I’m interested to hear the private schools and their view is either for or against it. Bishop Miege for example, when they line up against Labette County in football, it can’t be a lot of fun for them.”
Hines has twice conducted statewide surveys into the public-private school issue, with the most recent taking place in 2018. The results of that survey revealed that over 80% of schools that responded supported a change to the current system.
“My message to the board of directors is that something needs to be done,” Hines said. “We can’t mistake a ‘yes’ vote for an endorsement of this proposal. This is just a starting point.”
However, the least popular solution in the survey was a complete split of private schools from the current classification system. Out of 313 schools that responded, 51% responded favorably to separate divisions. Other options of population multipliers or competitive balance factors were far more popular statewide.
“We went forward with a very polarizing proposal,” Hines said. “That’s a divisive approach. If it fails, there’s no doubt that compromise will be somewhere in the middle. There’s some strategy behind our league’s proposal.”
Mike Kastle, who serves on the KSHSAA Executive Board as well as the Parsons USD 503 board, believes Hines’ proposal is aggressive. Kastle and the rest of the executive board met on Tuesday prior to Wednesday’s scheduled board meeting.
“The gut feeling I got today from the Executive Board is that what’s proposed is a hard sell,” Kastle said. “I don’t think the board will go forward with pushing (private schools) out because of the great difference in school size.”
Holtzman said the SEK League principals, which met last week to discuss this proposal among other league-wide issues, prefer a competitive balance factor similar to the system used in Oklahoma.
“KSHSAA is trying to go around and attend all the league meetings to see where everybody is at on that issue,” Holtzman said. “All the principals felt like they were in favor of something to address the issue and leveling the playing field between public and private.
“We’re not Texas. There’s not enough private schools to have their own division.”
Hines intends to trigger a roll call vote of his proposal at Wednesday’s board meeting in Topeka. If a majority of board members vote to send the proposal out to a vote of member schools, every school in the state will then have an opportunity to cast its ballot. A majority of all member schools, as well as a majority of classifications, would have to vote in favor for the measure to pass.
“They are moving forward with this and I think if this measure fails, it’s likely that KSHSAA themselves will have their own proposals by the April board meeting,” Hines said.
Another classification proposal on the table on Wednesday will be whether or not to reimplement two divisions into Class 1A for all sports except football. The classification previously experimented with a split before KSHSAA’s massive reclassification efforts, which were enacted at the start of the 2018-19 school year, removed the split.
Chetopa High School athletic director Jaunc Bradshaw said he’s against this proposal.
“I’m not in favor of it. I like the way the system is right now. I didn’t like a team with four-or-five wins make it to the state tournament when we had the split,” Bradshaw said. “Even though it would help our school and give us a better chance to go to state, in my opinion we just need to get better to compete.”
Bradshaw added that members of the Three Rivers League met and discussed the issue and agree with his take. The Three Rivers League’s representative on the KSHSAA board is Oswego High School principal Rob Schneeberger.
“Across the board, we all agreed that we don’t want to split,” Bradshaw said. “We feel like it’ll water down the state championship too much.”
Kastle believes the 1A proposal will be a toss-up.
“I think that’ll be a close vote,” Kastle said. “We got a packet of information where 38 1A schools are in favor of it, and we don’t know where the other schools will fall. I think it’ll end up being very close.”
If the KSHSAA Board of Directors votes yes on that proposal, every Class 1A school would then have to vote to pass or reject by majority.
Upping the amount of time transfer student-athletes must sit out from 18 weeks to a full calendar year is another proposal made by the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and the KSHSAA Executive Board.
“That’ll be another close vote,” Kastle said. “I think it’ll go with a ‘no’ vote. But won’t be unanimous. I’m certain of that.”
Currently, students who transfer between schools in the state without either a bona fide move or a hardship waiver must sit out 18 weeks from varsity competition.
Parsons High School athletic director Rob Barcus said he believes the potential change wouldn’t deter students from transferring — student-athletes transferring between Parsons and Labette County high schools, both 4A programs within 15 minutes of each other, has long been a contentious issue in the community.
“When a kid decides they want to go to Labette County or Parsons, they go to Labette County or Parsons,” Barcus said. “It wouldn’t change even if they had to sit out a year.”
Finally, Parsons High School also submitted its own proposal to eliminate the cap on the amount of schools that can co-op with another in athletics.
For example, Parsons, one of the only schools in the area that sponsors both boys and girls swimming, is limited to cooperating with two other schools in that sport. Athletes from St. Paul, Chanute, Pittsburg and other neighboring communities routinely co-op with Parsons.
“Since I started the job as athletic director, multiple schools have called us about cooperative agreements for swimming,” Barcus said. “I took the first two schools that asked.”
Kastle helped write the proposal for Parsons and believes the KSHSAA board will be receptive to it.
“We want kids to have an opportunity to participate,” Kastle said. “Parsons has a lot of kids that swim in the summer from a lot of communities and then they don’t get a chance to do so in the winter and spring. I think the proposal has a good chance to pass. The board is very sympathetic to it.”
“I don’t know why they wouldn’t pass it,” Barcus added. “I don’t know the reasoning behind potentially not passing it. What benefit does KSHSAA have to saying no? It gives more kids a chance to compete in a sport.”
The proposals for cooperative teams as well as the transfer regulations will either be passed or rejected at tomorrow’s board meeting and don’t need a vote of member schools.