Board oversteps its role

In an era in which school districts find themselves in financial crisis, with budgets extremely tight and important decisions necessary to maintain quality education without compromising core programming, the Hollidaysburg Area school board has decided to spend time discussing a policy on how offseason sports teams involving Hollidaysburg students should be conducted during what really should be the students’ free time.

We kid you not.

Last week Hollidaysburg’s board passed a rule stipulating that its coaches supervising a club team, such as one participating in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) competition that is not connected to the school, must invite the players from their school team to participate before seeking players from other communities.

Credit the two board members, Peter Hart and Stephanie Wertz, who voted against it, knowing it’s way out of the board’s jurisdiction. It’s too bad they were in a decided minority as the motion carried, 6-2.

On the surface, the policy sounds like a consideration that stresses inclusion. We can appreciate that.

But we have no idea how this rule will benefit the student-athletes at Hollidaysburg who may be seeking more competition than their school programs have to offer and thus might well seek opportunities elsewhere, involving top regional and statewide talent and perhaps coached by people from other communities.

We also don’t like the subtle pressures involved in inviting kids from within the coach’s district – per the new policy – who may not even have interest in an intensive AAU schedule, in which you typically have to pay to participate, not to mention the inherent conflicts of interest of having varsity coaches running club teams.

Further, is the board now in the business of evaluating high school talent? Is it – or, more specifically, certain members of it – going to be upset over the distribution of playing time?

Will it waste more time discussing whether so-and-so’s son or daughter should have been playing shortstop and batting cleanup for the traveling softball team as opposed to a player from another town?

What’s next: A board recommendation on which student is picked for the lead in the school musical? And will the traveling debate or chess team be subject to the same policy?

The point is the board is putting itself on a slippery slope when it already has capable administrators in place to handle these issues.

Further, competition is part of life, and the student-athletes might as well get used to it – especially once they reach the high school level.

More troubling than any offseason teams that are being conducted by Hollidaysburg coaches are the number of transfer students – specifically from Altoona – who have found a way into the Hollidaysburg girls basketball program these last couple of years at the expense of players who have come up through the ranks in Hollidaysburg’s program.

Maybe that’s what this is really about. And if so, say so.

But don’t hide behind an offseason policy designed to manage players’ summer schedules that will be counterproductive to those who may actually benefit from traveling teams and will be nearly impossible to police.

Now, would the board like to talk about more important things – like how to preserve teachers’ jobs and whether to raise taxes and, if so, by how much?