School officials explain OSAA appeal

Change doesn't happen overnight. And if the local school district has anything to say about it, the recent change imposed on Hood River Valley High School may not happen at all.

School Superintendent Jerry Sessions and HRV Athletic Director Glenn Elliott met with approximately 70 parents, teachers and administrators Jan. 17 at HRVHS to discuss the Oregon School Activities Association's proposal to move HRV into the Intermountain Conference in fall 2002.

"Most of us here tonight are seeking relief for what many feel is an unfair decision," said Sessions, who has drafted two letters of appeal -- one to the OSAA and one to the state Board of Education.

"But we have to understand that making these appeals is a process. We will first appeal to the OSAA and if that fails, we will appeal to the state board. But seeking a legal injunction is not the first step," he said.

Sessions said that the Mt. Hood Conference -- where HRV athletic teams currently reside -- has been informed of the appeals and has agreed to support HRV if schedules must be revised.

Thursday's forum also provided an opportunity to discuss HRV's options if it does not agree to join the IMC. One idea that has been floated around the community is to eliminate entire programs. But Elliott and Sessions don't believe such drastic measures will be necessary.

"My goal is to not cut anything," Elliott said. "I think all the coaches understand that we're going to have to tighten our belts a bit, and I honestly believe we can run the same quality programs even if funds are tightened," he said.

Another suggestion is to form independent schedules and rely on the school's long-time alliance with the MHC. But becoming an independent means HRV would not be eligible for state competitions, either as teams or as individuals.

Elliott said that if HRV joins the IMC, some programs -- such as cross-country, swimming, golf and track -- will be forced to take on an independent schedule because intra-conference dual meets would no longer take place. Instead, the IMC would hold one district competition at the end of the season to determine eligibility for state playoffs.

However, most of HRV's athletic programs would not be affected by the elimination of head-to-head competitions. The football, basketball, baseball, soccer and softball teams would play the same number of games and continue to compete against MHC schools in nonconference events.

The biggest issue for the students will be travel and having to play back-to-back games on overnight trips to places such as Bend and Redmond. Most parents are concerned with the issues of winter travel and loss of study time, and one mother even said she would commute from Portland every day so that she and her husband can remain involved in their children's lives.

"Being at each one of our kids games over the years has helped us keep them on track," Kathy Nishimoto said. "I'm not willing to sacrifice the limited time I have to communicate with my kids, and sports are a big part of that. I would rather commute from Portland than miss this time in their lives," she said.

Sessions and Elliott plan to move forward with the appeals process "aggressively," but are also prepared to begin competition in the IMC next fall.

"We believe we can put something together and do what's best for our kids and our athletic programs," Elliott said.

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