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Castillo missed her chance

Other editors say

She should have ordered the OSAA to go back to the drawing board

EDITOR'S NOTE: We were prepared to write an editorial regarding the OSAA reclassification plan, but saw this editorial from the Register-Guard and agreed entirely with its point of view.

Eugene Register-Guard

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo could have resolved the dispute over the Oregon School Activities Association's reclassification plan for high school sports.

All Castillo needed to do was rule that the OSAA violated state law in setting up its six-class system for high school sports and order it to retain the current four-class system for another year while it creates a new plan that better meets the needs of schools, students, families and their communities.

Castillo got the first part right, agreeing with a state hearings officer that the OSAA failed to obtain necessary approval from the Oregon Board of Education for the six-class plan and the enrollment cutoffs used to create them. But she blew the second part, passing up an opportunity to use her executive authority to direct the OSAA to scrap its plan and to design a new one that follows, not ignores, the clear criteria set down in the organization's bylaws.

Castillo's decision is not necessarily an indication she thinks the OSAA's new plan is a good one. It's hard to believe the longtime Eugene resident doesn't understand the problems ' the loss of local rivalries and daunting travel burdens ' it poses for local schools. It's more likely she's proceeding cautiously because the appeals process has yet to run its lengthy course.

— But the reclassification effort is getting bogged in a swamp from which it may not emerge for months or even longer. A clear directive from on high would have brought much-needed certainty for schools ' and would have aborted a plan that imposes unfair and unworkable hardships on large schools from Salem to Eugene to Medford.

Now, the Board of Education can help resolve this dispute by rejecting the enrollment cutoffs that the OSAA used to divide its 287 schools into six classes. Those numbers are as problematic as the six-classification system they create in a state that's too large in size and thin in population to make such a system viable.

If the board approves the new plan, the OSAA will probably then face off against the Eugene, Medford and Salem-Keizer districts in a hearing on their appeal. The findings from that hearing could give Castillo another opportunity to provide clarity and closure.

If Castillo needs inspiration, she need only reflect on the potential plight of Eugene's two largest high schools, Sheldon and South Eugene. Instead of playing their traditional crosstown Midwestern League rivals, the new OSAA plan would force them to make lengthy freeway treks to play league games in Medford, Roseburg and Grants Pass.

Then Castillo should scan the criteria that the OSAA should have applied in creating new classifications. For the record, they include improving competitive balance, minimizing travel expenses, keeping schools in the same district within the same league, respecting schools' athletic histories and traditions, minimizing the loss of class time and taking geography into account.

It should be obvious to Castillo that the OSAA's plan fails nearly every one of these criteria when applied to Sheldon and South Eugene or, for that matter, their counterparts in Salem and Medford.

It's time for Castillo to tell the OSAA to go back to work and come up with a better game plan.