Private schools react to Board of Control classification proposal

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A proposal moved forward this week by high school administrators in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control, aimed at marginalizing the competition of private schools in West Virginia.

The proposal would call for creating of a Private School Classification in addition to Class AAA, AA, and A.

But it doesn’t appear to have much chance of winning ultimate approval from the state board of education, nor the courts.

“We don’t think it has much chance of passing, but that will be handled by other people and I’m sure there’s something starting already above me on what actions we could take,” said Shannon Lewis, athletic director and girls basketball coach at St. Joseph Central in Huntington.

Huntington St. Joe is one of the eight private schools which would be impacted by the proposal. A second proposal, which automatically called for private schools to compete at the Class AAA level, was quickly shot down.

Wheeling Central is a perennial power in Class A in high school football.

“There’s maybe a sport or two at certain schools that could do that,” said Lewis. “But in football, Parkersburg Catholic can barely field a team and to say they have to play Parkersburg or Parkersburg South, that’s a safety issue.”

The proposal was overwhelmingly defeated.

It’s not the first time the private schools have gotten pressure from public schools. A similar proposal several years ago was voted down. Attorneys for the SSAC even spoke at Tuesday’s meeting prior to the vote and suggested it may not be legal.

“In their by-laws it says you can’t discriminate between private and public,” said Lewis. “Their lawyer even got up and gave examples of cases he had lost.”

Lewis and other private school administrators in the state know they are a minority and will have to live with whatever is decided, but he hopes this won’t be the outcome. He said other ideas seem to have more merit.

“I think the WVSSAC directors are looking at maybe multipliers by performance rather than student numbers,” said Lewis. “That way if you’re dominating a sport, you might move up for a couple of years.”

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