In the midst of facing a shortfall of more than $100 million next year, the Houston ISD has instead decided it's really important to strip Carnegie Vanguard High School of its ability to compete in UIL sports.
Tonight at the HISD's board meeting, Carnegie Vanguard parents are expected to storm the ramparts in protest of the district's proposal to end University Interscholastic League sports at the acclaimed magnet high school at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
Citing a need for more equity, HISD administration officials want to drop a provision allowing the non-comprehensive high school to compete in 6A University Interscholastic League matches. They are basing this on a recommendation of the District Executive Committee composed of a group of principals in that division, whose committee chair is a member of the athletics department, says Carnegie PTO President Joan Khosla.
Instead, students at that school — clearly among the best, brightest and smartest in the district — should just concentrate on their studies and if any of them really want to participate in competitive sports, they should return to their home schools.
What a howler indeed! For those of you interested in School Politics 101, here's why:
- Carnegie, with its 650 students, because of some bizarre UIL rule saying that non-comprehensive schools have to head right to the top category, has to compete in 6A with the likes of Lamar High School with its 3,500 kids, according to Khosla. Has Carnegie become an athletic powerhouse by drawing in kids from all over the district? Well, no. Let's face it; they're using different entrance metrics.
"We held our own despite the fact we are small and have to compete with large schools. But we are by no means an athletic powerhouse," Khosla says, laughing.
- In their conversation with the school, HISD has also pointed to Title IX guidelines, says Khosla, adding that this is confusing to her. "They keep referring to Title IX, which really revolves around having an equal number of sports for males and females. We have that. We have boys' baseball. We have girls' volleyball. Both the cross-country and tennis are co-ed. They've just added the tennis, but the baseball and the volleyball they've had for years."
- The notion that Carnegie kids could go to their home schools to participate in UIL sports. "Completely impractical," says Khosla. "Carnegie's in Midtown. Parents that didn't work could come get them to come crosstown in Houston traffic." But that wouldn't be many, she says, leaving the overwhelming majority unable to get back to their home schools in time to participate.
Amplifying that concern, most schools include team practice as part of their last period of the day. Many schools have block schedules, making that last period even longer. For Carnegie students to participate in sports in their home schools, they'd have to cut class at Carnegie, Khosla says.
- According to Khosla, this all came about because coaches and principals at these other schools — she specifically mentions Lamar — feel that having Carnegie in their division messes up their playoff brackets. Also, some kids whose home school might be Lamar or some other HISD high school, are instead on team Carnegie and gasp, cutting through all stereotypes, some of them are not just talented and gifted but talented and gifted and athletic.
Rumors were flying, she says, that the Mickey Leland College Preparatory for Young Men hoped to boost its enrollment by applying for similar status to Carnegie and coaches were worried that it really could become an athletic titan, Khosla says.
Here's the HISD agenda item:
SUBJECT: PROPOSED REVISIONS TO BOARD POLICY FMF(LOCAL), STUDENT ACTIVITIES: CONTESTS AND COMPETITION-FIRST READING
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) has reviewed its policy regarding University Interscholastic League (UIL) athletic activities and proposes the following revisions:
* At ATHLETIC PROGRAM, add language clarifying that:
o All schools are encouraged to provide a robust athletic program based on students' interests and capacity of the school.
o UIL athletic programs will be offered only at comprehensive high schools; high schools without an attendance zone may not participate in the UIL athletic program.
o UIL athletic programs currently offered at non-comprehensive high schools must be phased-out by the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
o Students who are enrolled at a non-zoned high school may participate in UIL athletics at their zoned school.
The proposed revised policy is attached.
COST/FUNDING SOURCE(S): None
STAFFING IMPLICATIONS: None
ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS/IMPACT: This agenda item supports HISD Goal 5: Improve Public Support and Confidence in Schools and is aligned to Core Initiative 5: Culture of Trust through Action.
Peggy Sue Gay, a well-respected education activist in Houston, had this to say: "My last son graduated in 2013 from CVHS – so I am a bit out of the loop – but this has been rumored to happen for years. Sometimes it is money – sometimes it is discouraging the smaller schools from thriving – sometimes it is just HISD."
Carnegie is just asking to continue to be grandfathered in, Gay wrote to us: "They have had athletics for a long time and the other 'specialty schools' have opted out of having athletics – HSPVA and Debakey – but CVHS always opted in – so although we could debate for the 'choice' system for future schools – CVHS just doesn’t want to be cut just because we are different – that is the POINT - isn’t it??"
Under HISD's decentralized system, it's up to each campus to make its budget work. According to Khosla, that amounts to $36,000 a year for the Carnegie UIL sports budget. "In HISD that's petty cash. If anybody tells you this is a money thing, they're lying."
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"Schools have to pay for the “UIL package” – if CVHS want to use their funds that way - then so be it… and no no sport powerhouse at CVHS AND we have to compete at the highest levels with Bellaire/Westside and Lamar because we attract from all segments of the city – so we pay in $’s and we pay in punishment of Texas huge school competition – but we still want to," Gay wrote.
"Carnegie has made that perfect blend of strong academics and competitive sports," Khosla says. "A lot of the principals, like the Lamar principal who made that motion, feel like they're losing talent to Carnegie. There's a lot of pressure and they want you out, and that has to do with sports and not with what's right for the kids.
"You should be replicating this model [Carnegie Vanguard], except every time we turn around they are trying to tear it apart."
Before consigning really smart kids to non-athleticism because you make it too tough to participate, maybe the HISD board members might put the kids over sports competitive BS and reject this lame-brain idea. We all know that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. Not quite sure where HISD has its head tucked away.