NCHSAA board agrees to changes for nontraditional schools

tstevens@newsobserver.comDecember 7, 2012 

— The N.C. High School Athletic Association Board of Directors took no action regarding nontraditional schools during its annual winter meeting Thursday, but did agree in principle on some changes.

The board is expected to vote on the changes during its spring meeting in May.

The NCHSAA defines a nontraditional school as one not governed by a locally elected board of education and whose oversight is not provided by a board of education-appointed system superintendent.

The nontraditional schools that are members of the NCHSAA are either nonboarding parochial schools, such as Cardinal Gibbons, or charter schools.

The NCHSAA board was presented recommendations from a special ad hoc committee that was appointed to study nontraditional schools, but chose to agree in principle to the changes and not vote until May.

The board hopes to get feedback from the association’s 396 schools and review the proposed changes with N.C. General Assembly leaders.

“No matter what we do, some people are not going to like it,” said Stewart Hobbs, the NCHSAA president and the superintendent of Yadkin County Schools. “It is like cancelling school because of snow. Some people are going to be mad if you do it. Others are going to be mad if you don’t.

“This recommendation answers all of the questions that we’ve heard about nontraditional schools. It addresses transfers, residency and nontraditional schools’ performance in the playoffs.”

The nontraditional committee was appointed after the NCHSAA membership voted in the spring on whether to exclude the nonboarding parochial schools. The motion did not receive the three-fourths majority needed to pass.

“What did these schools do wrong?” Hobbs said. “Nothing.”

Among the proposed changes would be that athletes at nontraditional schools would have to live in the same county as the school, or live within 25 miles of the school or be a member of a parochial church and submit a letter of verification from the pastor.

Nontraditional schools, parochial and charter, would be bumped up a classification for the playoffs in a sport if the school had advanced to the regional semifinals in six of the preceding eight years, or made the regional finals in four of the previous six years or made the state finals in three consecutive years in its current classification.

Cardinal Gibbons, for example, has dominated 3A volleyball and would be moved to the 4A playoffs in volleyball under the proposed change.

The school would be moved up for that sport only, not in all sports.

The board agreed with various transfer limitations, including traditional school students who transfer to nonboarding parochial schools being ineligible for 365 days.

The agreed upon transfer rules, which would usually allow students to transfer between charter school and public schools and be eligible, might not be considered in May, however.

The board agreed in principle to make all transfer students ineligible for 365 days unless a domicile change is made or a local education agency (LEA) approves the transfer. The board is expected to vote on that change in May also.

“The transfer policy would affect all 396 schools and we wouldn’t need the nontraditional transfer rules,” said Davis Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner. “We had the nontraditional school committee propose transfer rules for nontraditional schools and the education committee propose transfer rules in general.”

More than half of 24 board members commented during discussion about nontraditional schools. The board also spent considerable time Wednesday talking about the issue.

Mac Morris of the N.C. Coaches Association said there is very little difference in the nontraditional schools and many other member schools.

“What is the difference between them and schools in systems that have open enrollment?” he said.

Several board members said they appreciated the ad hoc committee’s work, but they wanted to get more input from the schools before implementing the changes.

The board also wants to talk to members of the N.C. General Assembly before voting on the changes.

“These are big changes,” Whitfield said. “I’m very comfortable with getting more feedback.”

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Stevens: 919-829-8910

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