Shenandoah Mustangs and Fillies

(Shenandoah) – Shenandoah school officials are among those calling on state high school athletic officials to examine how schools are classified for competition.

Earlier this week, the Shenandoah School Board unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control and Executive Directors to convene a committee to “seriously evaluate the competitive needs of students and schools in order to experience success, and the inequities inherent in a system based solely on enrollment size without consideration of family and community capacity for support.” The resolution calls for a recommendation to a joint board of both associations to resolve the issue in the 2019-2020 school year.

Shenandoah School Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson says the resolution was first discussed during a session at the Iowa Association of School Board’s annual convention in November.

“In that session, they really talked about the need to have a more equitable opportunity for our students to increase participation,” said Nelson, “to have more fair play, and have more opportunities to be successful in different school environments. It’s a resolution that talks about the influence of poverty in communities, and affects the opportunities that might be available to them.”

The resolution states the board feels the need for both athletic associations to begin the process for modifications on how schools are classified for district and state tournament competitions.

“We don’t know what the actual outcome will be,” she said. “What we’re asking for is, it’s time to have a conversation. It’s time to put the data in front of us. It’s time to look at it, and come up with real solutions about more fair play, and what defines success for our activities programs.”

In addition, the resolution states both associations must recognize the challenges public school districts face when competing with certain private schools with similar enrollment, and that all students deserve a level playing field and fair opportunity to strive for success at a competitive level. It also states low poverty levels impact the ability of school districts to compete with other similar sized schools on a regular basis. Nelson says it’s an age-old problem.

“When the state assigns who you’re going to play for football,” said Nelson, “or when you looks at classifications, and that helps define who you play for in different athletic teams, sometimes it seems a little unfair that quite affluent schools that have access to things that lower income schools (don’t) are competing.”

Nelson hopes the resolution will lead to a more level playing field when it comes to athletic competition.

“I don’t know that we have a complete answer to the question,” she said, “other than we need to have a conversation of what would make it more equitable—not necessarily fairer. Fair is, you have 1,200 students, this school has 1,200 students, you compete. But, there are things that make it more equitable.”

Nelson took the resolution to the board after discussions with Shenandoah High Activities Director Aaron Burdorf and the district’s coaches in recent meetings.