Castillo Sustains OSAA's Changes
Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard
SALEM - Oregon's top education official ruled Friday in favor of new athletic leagues that will require hundreds of additional miles in student travel by Eugene, Salem-Keizer and Medford high school students.
Oregon schools Superintendent Susan Castillo issued a final order upholding the Oregon School Activities Association's reclassification of high schools into six groupings based on student enrollment. She said the new system, along with new leagues that will put South Eugene and Sheldon high schools in the same league with schools in Roseburg, Grants Pass and Medford, passed legal muster.
"I find that I have no basis to rule against the OSAA classification and redistricting on the facts of the case. My hands are tied," Castillo wrote in a statement that accompanied her final order.
Castillo, herself a Eugene resident, declined to speak with reporters about the decision. Her spokesman, Gene Evans, cited as reasons potential appeal of the case and that she might deal with it again.
The new classification system will be in place for the school years from 2006-10. By putting schools into six different classifications based on student enrollment, the OSAA is seeking to bring more competitive balance to high school athletics than exists under the current four-classification system.
The OSAA plans to re-evaluate its plan and consider adjustments based on enrollment changes for 2011.
Eugene School District attorney Joel DeVore said officials were considering a legal challenge in the Oregon Court of Appeals. He said no decision would be made until after discussing the options Monday with Eugene school Superintendent George Russell. Russell earlier this week indicated a court appeal was likely.
DeVore said he was convinced the plan was legally flawed because if it was deemed adequate for most high schools, it left no opportunity for those few that are harmed to seek a remedy. He said that set an unacceptable precedent that could come back to haunt those schools that found the current realignment acceptable.
"It's not just Eugene hurt today, or Salem or Medford," DeVore said. "It's every school in the state that has no right to appeal and no ability to see that standards are enforced."
The OSAA plan expands from four to six the number of classifications for schools. Eugene was joined by the Medford and Salem-Keizer school districts fighting the change. All objected for similar reasons: that students would lose too much class time traveling to compete in sports. Medford also objected to the distance between its schools and Eugene. Salem-Keizer did not want its five high schools to travel regularly over the Cascades to play Redmond High School, which would be placed in the same league.
Tom Welter, the executive director of the OSAA, said he was not surprised by Castillo's decision, which closely followed the reasoning of the hearings officer she appointed to consider the appeal by the three school districts. …