Schools to decide Siloam Springs appeal
September 29, 2011
NORTH LITTLE ROCK After much deliberation, an appeal filed by Siloam Springs to alter the Class 7A and 6A landscape in football will now go to the schools involved.
The governing body of the Arkansas Activities Association approved an amended motion Thursday afternoon to allow the 32 combined schools in the state's two largest classes to vote on the appeal. The football-only proposal was originally voted down at the association's annual meeting in July.
By all accounts both for and against, the decision was a stalemate for the day. But for Siloam Springs superintendent Ken Ramey, it was a step in the right direction for his mission to get his school's athletic programs into a conference he deems fair.
"It's very important to us that we have a balanced approach between geography, travel, size of school and number of participants," Ramey said. "So we were presenting those variables and it was important that we had a factual approach, not an emotional approach, and I think we got that done."
The appeal suggests a complete separation between 6A and 7A schools into class-specific conferences. In the appeal, Siloam Springs School District suggests a realignment that would place all 7A/6A East schools with to-be 6A schools Greenwood and Russellville, along with Siloam Springs into the 6A North/East, and the 6A South keeping all its current members.
The three Little Rock teams that will be in 6A beginning next season — Hall, Parkview and J.A. Fair — will be placed in one of the conferences accordingly.
The appeal would place the 7A schools into their own two separate conferences: the 7A-West would remain the same, with the 7A Central/South adding Van Buren and West Memphis.
Originally, Siloam Springs would be moving into the 7A West Conference next school year as the lone 6A school in the conference, up from its current post in the 5A-West.
In the meeting, Ramey said everyone around the Siloam Springs athletic program sees this current move to the 7A-West as a "kiss of death" to their athletic programs, citing safety concerns and the differential in enrollment — Siloam Springs would be the smallest school in the conference by 437 students, discounting Little Rock Catholic, who must play 7A per a private school amendment.
Representatives from Van Buren and West Memphis had the biggest objection to the appeal, speaking against it in the morning meeting. And while a ruling wasn't passed down Thursday, Van Buren deputy superintendent Kerry Schneider would've liked that to happen.
"The comment was made that when it goes to a vote it becomes very political," Schneider said. "The thing is, we elect an...executive board to make decisions. So when the executive board passes on — I don't want to say passes on a decision — but when it's left to the schools, there are rules, there's a handbook that has rules. And I think (Board Member) Mr. (Joe) Couch stated it best when he said, 'this is less of an appeal and more of a proposal.' Because you don't see any other appeal, where they name who should go to which conference...I wish there would've been a decision made today."
Schneider cited that with the move to a central Arkansas-centric conference, his school, along with West Memphis, would be greatly affected by the travel, explaining that at the football team would have to leave at noon for at least four conference games. That would result in large amounts of missed class time for students.
The amended appeal also stipulated that the AAA would have to assign the teams to the proposed conferences geographically, should the appeal pass.
The appeal will only pass with a two-thirds majority vote, meaning 22 of the 32 schools involved will have to vote in favor of it for it to go into effect. The voting parties have 20 days from the day the ballot is sent out to send their votes back in. AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor said he wasn't sure when it would be sent out, but noted it would be done quickly.
Taylor recognized that not everyone will get what they want in this situation, but everyone is working toward a solution that compromises everyone's requests.
"You can see how hard it was for the board to make a decision," he said. "There's not a perfect solution. It wouldn't be real easy, and it's not because, as always you look at two things, you look at the inequity in travel, and then you look at the inequity in numbers. And so they're trying to find the perfect solution, if there is one, to just football it's different, I've always said it's different, the governing body's always said it's different. And so we're trying to find a solution really, with a sport with the inequity in numbers is concern. But also, we have to look at travel in the other sports so the kids don't have to travel and they can get in earlier on school nights. It's just hard deal."
School officials in the meeting also spoke of the vote making the decision the appeal "political." For Schneider, that starts now, and there isn't any way around it.
"Everybody starts working it," Schneider said. "Now that, you know, when everybody starts working their side of the story, it comes down to, I don't know."
There were nine other appeals on the docket for the meeting, yielding the following results:
Appeals Granted (all to go into affect beginning next year)
-Little Rock Catholic will move into the 7A/6A-Central Conference and Little Rock Central will move into the 7A/6A-East.
-Deer will move to the 1A-East Conference.
-Dermott will move up and remain in the 2A-7 West Conference.
-In basketball only, Lavaca was granted an appeal that will move Green Forest from the 3A-1 East Conference to the 3A-1 West. Lavaca and Mansfield will move from the 3A-1 West to the 3A-4. Perryville will move to the 3A-5.
-In basketball only, Magazine will switch conferences from the 2A-4 East Conference to the 2A-4 West.
-South side Bee Branch will remain in the 1A-2 South Conference.
-Johnson County Westside will move from the 2A-4 East Conference to the 2A-4 West in basketball only.
-Helena-West Helena was denied a move to the 5A-East Conference, which would've switched them with Beebe, sending Beebe to the 5A Central.
-Dollarway was denied a move to the 4A-8 Conference next season, because they submitted their appeal after the deadline.
Read more about this in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.