The debate on how to classify public and private schools takes another turn.
In May, the members of the Missouri State High School Activities Association passed a pair of proposals on the 2019 ballot that will change how the classifications are structured, and how private schools will be assessed within those new rankings.
The biggest takeaway and the one that has many private schools, like St. Vincent and Saxony Lutheran up in arms about is Proposal 10.
The private school 1.35 enrollment multiplier is gone. A new “competitive equity” or “success factor” is in.
Starting in the 2020-21 school year, private and charter schools will begin with their raw enrollments, with single-sex school enrollments doubled, and then the individual sports within those schools will be moved up classifications using a points system based upon postseason accomplishments over a six-year period.
St. Vincent Athletic Director Bruce Valleroy feels that the new rule is not for every private school in the state.
“How are you going to bump up the schools that are already in 5A or 6A, depending on the sport?” Valleroy said. “The schools that will be most affected are the smaller schools that are in Class 1, 2, or 3, so I don’t feel it affects every private school the same way.”
The rule passed with 294 votes in favor and 133 against. The math equates to nearly 69 percent of members in favor. That’s more than seven percent higher than the 1.35 multiplier vote, which was adopted before the 2002-2003 school year when it passed 266-186.
“If you look at it, there are about 80 percent public schools to about 20 percent private schools in the state,” Valleroy said. “So of course public schools will vote yes because it really doesn’t affect them, it would be different if this affected all schools in the state. I think it’s also penalizing the kids that aren’t even in high school yet, that haven’t played on a varsity level yet, but are punished because of past success.”
The maximum number of points an individual sport at each school can earn in a year is four.
A district title is worth one point. Quarterfinal victories are worth two, semifinal wins are worth three and state championships are worth four.
The point totals over the last six seasons will then determine how many classes each sport at the private schools are bumped up in classification. Sports with 0-3 points will not be moved up, with 4-6 points being moved up one class, and 7 or more points will be moved up two classes.
Each soccer program at Saxony, the Saxony girls basketball and the St. Vincent girls soccer teams will be the most affected under the new scenario. The Lady Indians will have 11 points and will presumably move up to Class 3A as well as the Lady Crusaders who will have eight after winning back-to-back Class 1 state titles in 2015 and 2016.
Valleroy sees it as a short-sighted rule for the public schools that voted to adopt the rule.
This past season, the Lady Indians soccer team went 5-1 against in the Jefferson County Athletic Association Conference against the likes of Hillsboro, Festus and other 2A and 3A schools. In 2018, the Indians went a perfect 6-0 against conference foes.
“I don’t think these public schools are putting two and two together yet,” Valleroy said.
“There will be teams in soccer, football, or any other sport that has teams that are successful in lower classes that will win the districts in the higher classes as well. The schools are looking ahead to see what private schools will be bumped into their district.”
Saxony girls soccer coach Chris Crawford has a similar take on the situation as Valleroy and many other private school coaches in the state.
“It’s punishing schools as opposed to evening the playing field like they would like to do,” Crawford said.
Crawford has been a strong proponent in the past of finding a “true champion” when it comes to high school sports, especially when it comes to his sport soccer, where the St. Vincent and Saxony Lutheran girls soccer teams have won four of the last five Class 1 state championships and either of the two teams have been in the last five state title games, despite being in the same district.
He does not feel that this rule accomplishes that goal.
“I would argue that this past girls’ season we had three of the best teams in Class 1 and for the most part they don’t get true championship caliber games for the most part,” Crawford said. “With us and St. Vincent moving up together that still won’t happen.”
Perryville softball and boys basketball coach Dustin Wengert has coached at smaller private schools like St. Vincent and Valle Catholic, and was the athletic director at Notre Dame and has sympathy for what smaller schools now have to contend with.
“I would like to see a similar rule for public schools as well,” Wengert said. “You look at Class 4 basketball with Sikeston and Cape Central, who have dominated our Class 4 basketball district and state for years and years, but they aren’t affected, and will probably continue to win on the Class 4 level.”
For Perryville, although they are not affected personally, teams who have been in their district annually and most often are a stumbling block for the Pirates in several sports when it comes to district championships is Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs will most likely be moved up in sports like boys soccer, girls soccer, softball, and others, freeing the way for a few possible Pirate championships. While, Wengert sees a new path to a championship he enjoys the mountain Perryville would have to climb to win a district.
“I like competition,” Wengert said. “It’s easier to say in softball because we beat them last year in districts, but I think it comes in cycles, right now Perryville softball has a chance to be good as long as their coach doesn’t mess things up and in basketball we are just trying to set our standards to where they should be. So it doesn’t matter to me who we play in the postseason.”
Wengert believes this will be a rule set in place for the next decade or so and that no system is perfect.
“I know there are a lot of schools mad at the system, but it’s something that was voted on and passed and now we have to live with it for the foreseeable future. Even if we don’t agree with it.”