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Monday, Aug. 26, 2013: Sec. 5 to revisit classification issue Tuesday

   Leading off today: With practices in a variety of sports having started last week, it's easy to get caught up in the preparations for fall sports and lose track of big-picture topics.

   With that in mind, it's always nice to see reporters diving into meat-and-potato issues even with the start of football, soccer and other sports on the horizon. Two more examples came at the start of this week as the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and Albany Times Union took a look at important subjects.

   In Rochester, James Johnson did a thorough job of explaining the quirks in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's two-year trial program for the classification of combined programs. Under the rule, a graduated scale is applied to BEDS numbers, sometimes resulting a team playing in a smaller classification than in previous years.

   Though I've been pounding on the Rochester City School District for exploiting loopholes, Johnson began his reporting with East Rochester and Gananda, two schools that have combined in football for many years. The team won the Section 5 Class B championship last fall, but applying the new rule drops the program to Class C this fall.

   I've heard complaints about that one, as did Johnson and -- more importantly -- Section 5 Executive Director Ed Stores and football coordinator Dick Cerone. Despite the bellyaching, it's crucial to remember that the East Rochester/Gananda partnership achieves exactly what the state had in mind when it began allowing schools to combine programs. Without the accommodation, neither the ER nor Gananda districts would be able to offer football as an option.

   The fact that ER/Gananda can move down this fall based upon the graduated enrollment scale is awkward but not obnoxious, since the Bombers haven't been beating Class B competition with any consistency -- posting three losing seasons in the last eight years.    “Our merger hasn’t proven to be a dominant program,” East Rochester AD Mark Michele told the paper. “It gives kids from both schools a chance to play. We won last year, OK. Well, two years ago we didn’t even qualify for the Section 5 playoffs. You worry about the sectionals when they come, but with teams like Hornell, Le Roy and Bath in Class C, it’s not going to be easy anyway.”

   Still, others have gone the route of avoiding controversy altogether. Pittsford AD Scott Barker said combined Sutherland and Mendon teams in ice hockey and lacrosse will stay in the highest sectional and state classifications even though the rule change would have allowed the Panthers to move down.

   The rest of the Democrat and Chronicle story delves into the quagmire of the Rochester City School District, which for a number of years has received sectional approval for consolidations that would generally be regarded as on the up-and-up. In football, soccer, baseball and softball in particular, several schools in the district would not be able to field teams if they had go it alone. Again, the purpose of the two-year trial is to assist school districts facing that problem.

   As I've been ranting about this summer, however, the RCSD has several buildings which contain multiple "schools within schools." By applying the graduated scale, the district manages to greatly reduce enrollments, dropping some teams as much as two classes from where they played a year ago. It has many people rolling their eyes, and Monroe County boys basketball chairman Dave Richardson regularly hears the complaints that the Section 5 Executive Committee is scheduled to discuss Tuesday afternoon.

   “I get the rationale of multiple schools under one roof (from an education standpoint),” he told the paper. “(But) you are still drawing from the same number of kids (for sports).”

   RCSD AD Carlos Cotto offered a very lawyer-ish take: “We haven’t done anything that put us at an advantage,” Cotto said. “We would like to play where we fit.”

   He's accurate in a sense when he coyly alludes to the fact his district didn't write the rule. Suggesting, though, that there is no advantage gained by applying the graduated scale to drastically shrink the enrollment of six schools in a single building is too laughable to merit further debate.

   Transfer rule: Meanwhile, James Allen at The Times Union reported Sunday on concerns in Section 2 about athletes coming and going, particularly when the change of address to establish residency -- thereby making the transfer legal -- doesn't pass the smell test.

   Of specific concern is the age-old ruse in which an athlete's parents establish residency in another district by renting an apartment near the school even though the family doesn't actually move there full-time. If you didn't know it happens in high school sports, then it will floor you to know it's also been done more than a few times in the world of youth-league ice hockey.

   Wayne Bertrand, the executive director of Section 2, says it violates the spirit of the rule and is one of the issues that has started conversations within the Executive Committee.

  
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   "We are discussing tightening up the policy on describing, or better defining, the definition of 'residency,'" Bertrand told the paper.

   Taking pressure off kids: Section 1 will cease using linespeople for regular-season volleyball matches, The Journal News reported. Previously, reserve players from the teams served as line judges, supplementing the work of two paid officials.

   Jennifer Simmons, executive director of Section 1, said on Friday the section “did not want student-athletes placed in the situation to make (close) calls.” The change was OK'd last year and put into effect for this fall.

   As noted by the paper, close calls have at times caused crowds to vent at the students, who can sometimes be as young as 13 years old in JV matches.

   Section 9 made a similar change in 2009. The two paid officials on the court make all out-of-bounds calls.

   Paid officials will continue to call the lines during the regional and state tournaments, complementing the two regular officials.

   Turmoil: Preparations for the football season at Thomas Jefferson in the PSAL got off to a rough start last week after news broke that Stephen Edwards had been fired as head coach after six seasons, apparently the result of a weight room accident last March.

   Community Newspaper Group also reported that assistant coach Gus Cyrus quit in protest of Edwards' firing. Frederick Nash was named the new coach, and it was not immediately clear how many varsity players quit the team or began the transfer process following the change.

   “Losing them is like a slap in the face, because these are guys that really give an arm and leg out for all of us,” said team captain Jonathan Troche, who organized a sit-in last May in support of the departed coaches.

   Edwards said he was fired in May because of a weight room injury sustained by an athlete. The football player reportedly chipped a tooth when he leaned too far down during a workout while spotting for a teammate. The paper reported Cyrus was supervising the workout alone because Edwards was running late due to a flat tire.

   An investigation determined that procedures had been violated because Cyrus did not have required city Department of Education certification to run the workout alone.

   Edwards said his union declined to file a grievance on his behalf.

   Jefferson, which has produced four Division I recruits in six seasons under Edwards, is regularly a mid- to upper-level contender among Brooklyn schools and went 6-3 last fall. The Orange Wave open Sept. 7 vs. Boys & Girls.

   On the web: MaxPreps has published its New York preseason top five in football. Direct your venom at me if your favorite team is not listed since I compiled the list after consulting with a handful of reporters around the state.

   Extra points: Carl Paladino, the real estate developer and failed candidate for governor of New York in 2010, has purchased the former Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo, leading to speculation the building may house a charter school as early as next fall.

   Paladino won the building and its 5.37-acre campus at auction for $2.9 million, The Buffalo News reported. “We have a user for the entire facility, and we will put it good use,” Paladino said.

   Holy Angels closed in the spring because of declining enrollment. It was founded 152 years ago by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.


  
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