State Journal

When a Road Trip Turns Into a Hike

Teams’ travel distances are an issue in Oregon.

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Oregon state Superintendent Susan Castillo has asked for more control over high school sports leagues after last fall’s enactment of a realignment plan that is still causing headaches.

At the heart of the controversy is the decision to divide the state’s interscholastic sports teams into six levels of competition, up from the previous four. The shift, intended to improve competitive balance among schools, paired some of the larger schools in leagues with teams that, in some cases, are more than 100 miles away—increasing travel expenses and cutting into class time.

The plan was created and put into place by the Wilsonville-based Oregon School Activities Association, the nonprofit organization approved by the Oregon Department of Education to oversee the 95,000 student-athletes in both private and public high school sports leagues.

Most schools, especially ones with fewer students, are satisfied with the changes. “Overall, it’s been a huge, huge success,” said Randy Schild, the superintendent of the 2,000-student Tillamook school district and head of the committee that helped draw up the realignment plan.

But three larger districts—Salem-Keizer, Eugene, and Medford—have taken their complaints against the OSAA’s realignment plan to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Medford and Eugene, for example, are about 170 miles apart and will now compete with each other.

In a legislative hearing last week, Ms. Castillo asked lawmakers to give her the authority to intervene in issues normally controlled by the OSAA when such issues create high levels of controversy. Currently, she said, she is being held accountable for an issue over which she possesses “limited authority.”

Over the past several years, many states have given nonathletic authorities—school boards, superintendents, and state governments—more authority over high school athletics associations, according to Bruce Howard, a spokesman for the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations.

He called redistricting an “emotional issue ... in every state.”

Ms. Castillo, who originally favored the realignment, said “for most people in the state, this change has been very positive,” but she agrees that for such a significant change, “you need to make sure that all parties are at the table.”

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See other stories on education issues in Oregon. See data on Oregon's public school system.

Vol. 26, Issue 28, Page 16

Published in Print: March 21, 2007, as When a Road Trip Turns Into a Hike

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