The Perry Community School District joined 26 others across Iowa when they approved a resolution asking the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) to review the standards used for classification.
The resolution, which the Perry school board passed unanimously after lengthy discussion and debate, asks both prep athletic governing bodies to “convene a committee to seriously evaluate the competitive needs of student and schools to experience success and the inequities inherent in a system based solely on enrollment size without consideration of family and community capacity for support and make recommendations to a joint board of both associations to resolve this issue in the 2019-2020 year.”
Perry Activities Director Tom Lipovac and Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger both spoke in favor of the resolution, noting PHS has more than 70 percent of the current student body receiving free or reduced lunch aid.
Both argued that the lower economic status of Perry students, as a whole, denies them opportunities available to those districts with a high standard of living. It was noted that the more well-to-do schools often have parents who can afford sending their child athletes to camps and clinics and to play in leagues, opportunities available to, but more difficult to access by, Perry students of similar age.
Lipovac noted that 21 states weigh factors beyond enrollment size in generating classification, which in Iowa is based solely on Basic Educational Data System (BEDS). Class designation is based on the number of students enrolled in each district in grades 9-11 the prior year, so the number Perry reports this October will be used for 2020-2021 classification. Perry currently operates with a BEDS of 428, making the district the 67th largest in the state.
Four of the 21 states weighing other issues in their classification formula — Oregon, Washington, Ohio and Minnesota — are the only ones that consider economic factors in their equation.
While Perry has had recent success in both boys and girls soccer and wrestling, aside from a few individual efforts the team sport results have left much to be desired so far as win-loss records are concerned, Perry’s lack of competitiveness has become acute.
Director Casey Baldwin praised the recent series published by ThePerryNews.com that discussed the state of sports in Perry. He initially balked at asking for the review, wondering whether the district would be “telling our athletes they are not capable of competing fairly, so we have to change to rules to help you” and what kind of message that might send.
Board President Kyle Baxter was also concerned, noting the “basket is still 10 feet high, the plate is still 13 inches wide” for all teams. Both he and Baldwin said they could see no reason why positive attitudes and increased dedication to preparation could not make the Bluejays and Jayettes competitive with the schools against which they are commonly scheduled.
Marburger questioned that viewpoint.
“Say we have a kid who is struggling with reading,” he asked. “Are we just going to say, ‘We are not going to do all we can to help you’ and instead suggest that if he just studies harder, he will figure it out?”
This writer interjected, noting that changing some parameters would still leave some inequities, as there are often wide ranges in BEDS numbers between the largest schools and the smallest in each class, giving the big 3A teams, for example, many more students to choose from for sports that a small 3A district.
He also noted that Illinois several years ago imposed a 1.65 modifier, in which non-boundaried (non-public, chiefly Catholic) schools must multiply their BEDS number by 1.65. As an example, a school Perry’s size (BEDS 428) would be classified as a BEDS 706.
This was in response to a seemingly unfair advantage, the so-called “recruiting” edge, for such schools and the excessive number of state championships won by such schools in many sports. The results have lowered those results but only marginally and inside a statistical model for predicted success.
The shrinking number of students participating in most sports in Perry was discussed and whether the lack of success at the high school level was discouraging future Jays and Jayettes. Whatever could be done to help address that issue was something to consider, Lipovac and Marburger said.
Superintendent Clark Wicks said his desire was simply to see Perry at least be able to compete at an average level with conference and other teams, something recent results have shown to be increasingly more difficult.
Whether districts that would not be considered for an economics-based reassignment would vote in favor of a new system that would, in effect, work against them was openly doubted. All involved admitted to the validity of the arguments on both sides, and a roll call vote was asked for, with the resolution asking to have the issue reviewed passing 5-0.
Neither the IHSAA or the IGHSAU has announced when or even whether the matter would be discussed.