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High school reclassification moving forward
Thursday, 22 December 2011

By S. Thomas Coleman

For the AJC

7:57 p.m. Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MACON -- A fledgling group of 32 public high school schools, all from Georgia’s smallest classification, moved forward on Wednesday with its plan to separate from the Georgia High Schools Association, going as far as to adopt a tentative name even while the GHSA is continuing to work on a realignment to address the schools’ grievances.

An eight-member advisory committee of the proposed new organization, calling itself the Georgia Public Schools Association, held a day-long meeting in a back room of a Macon steakhouse to begin piecing together rules, policies and bylaws. The break-away schools feel the GHSA’s has failed to address the competitive advantage they believe private schools have gained over public schools in Class A competitions.

The new group, using both the GHSA and Georgia Independent Schools Association rules and bylaws as guides, discussed such rudimentary items as fee structure, membership qualifications and catastrophic injury insurance during the meeting.

However, one item that did not come up for discussion is a still-evolving plan from the GHSA that would separate schools in Class A based on service areas. Larger public and private schools located in metro areas would compete against each other in one tier, while smaller schools, located in mostly rural parts of the state, would pair also off.

The plan, in the works since October, will likely be discussed at length during the next GHSA legislative session on Jan. 10, according to GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin.

“One principal said that the issue is not so much public vs. private, so much as it is urban vs. rural,” Swearngin said Wednesday. “I anticipate that there will be a lot of discussion about this during our meeting on Jan. 10.”

But Chad Davis, principal of Wilcox County High School in Rochelle and one of the members of the advisory committee, said neither he nor any of the 32 schools interested in separating are moved by that plan. If approved, the GHSA plan would go into effect August 2012, but would only be utilized in softball, baseball, golf and tennis.

“We would not be interested in that, because that plan still has the possibility of public and private schools competing against each other in the playoffs and for championships,” Davis said. “We are looking for complete separation of public and private schools. At this point, that is what we want.”

The GPSA committee was formed last week during a meeting of 85 officials representing 33 schools, all with an interest in bolting the GHSA. That meeting, held at the Wilcox County Agricultural Center, was organized by Davis, one of the leading advocates for separating public and private schools in extra curricular activities, as is done in neighboring states Tennessee and South Carolina.

“I’ve gotten several calls since then from people from other schools wanting to reach out to us because they have an interest in what we are doing and this is not just a South Georgia thing,” Davis said, noting that Greg Ellis, associate athletic director at Gordon Lee High School, located in the northwest corner of the state, is a member of the advisory committee. “Schools from all over the state are interested.

“At the end of the day, this is about fairness. There’s no way you can compare a Wilcox County to a Wesleyan. The only thing similar is the number of kids. That’s it. We want total separation in everything – debate, one-act play, everything.”

The advisory committee could meet again in the next week to finish the document outlining the GPSA’s mission, goals, rules, regulations and bylaws, Davis said. That information would then be distributed during the next scheduled general meeting of the GPSA, tentatively set for Jan. 9 in Macon.

Schools seeking to separate from the GHSA would require approval from their individual school boards. If the new association is indeed formed, schools will begin competing next fall.

“We’re going to look for a public school in the Macon area to host the [Jan. 9] meeting,” Davis said. “And we’re inviting representatives from any school that is interested in something different.”

FACT BOX

The eight members of the advisory committee of the tentatively-named Georgia Public Schools Association are:

Cecil Barber, Clinch County baseball coach

Chad Davis, Wilcox County principal

Greg Ellis, Gordon Lee associate athletic director

William Huff, Terrell County football coach

Alan Ingram, Seminole County football coach

Ray Jordan, Turner County Schools superintendent

Kaveous Preston, Warren County principal

Robbie Robinson, Washington-Wilkes football coach

What’s next: The GPSA will host its second statewide information meeting on Jan. 9 in Macon. Information on the proposed structure of the GPSA will be distributed to allow prospective members to make presentations to their school boards on the issue.

The GHSA will hold its next legislative meeting on Jan. 10 at the Macon Centreplex. Among the topics of discussion will be approval of a plan to separate large schools from small schools in Class A, using service area as the determining factor.

 
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