Peterson roll pins boosters

Superintendent says ruling on wrestling season is final

Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Hopes of a group of wrestling parents, athletes and coaches to revisit the decision to have all peninsula schools compete in the fall wrestling season have taken a technical fall.

There's nothing I'm going to say here tht's going to help this audience... I turned my decision in (to ASAA) March 27.'

-Donna Peterson superintendent

A group of about 50 concerned boosters attended Monday's school board meeting to voice their opinions about Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Donna Peterson's decision.

While they did have the opportunity to air their opinions during the part of the meeting reserved for public comment and items not on the agenda, most of the wrestling boosters, asking for the school board to reconsider the decision, were not satisfied with the response.

The Alaska School Activities Association set last Saturday as a deadline for schools to declare the season in which they would compete. The fall season runs from Sept. 25 through Dec. 16, while the spring season starts Jan. 15 and goes to April 7.

Peterson informed ASAA of her decision on March 27.

"There's nothing I'm going to say here that's going to help this audience," Peterson said in response to the public comment on the issue, calling it a no-win situation for a superintendent. "... I turned my decision in (to ASAA) March 27. That decision could have been changed at any point up to April 15. ... What comes next is what's already happening."

"It's frustrating. You feel like you come in with a logical discussion, and they say, 'Sorry, we've already made our decision,'" said Mike Hutchison of Soldotna, a parent of a Skyview wrestler.

Supporters of a move to the spring season were under the impression that ASAA's date was a soft deadline, leaving schools some wiggle room after that date.

ASAA, though, never issued any directives regarding the "firmness" of that deadline. A memo from ASAA faxed to principals and athletic directors around the state dated April 18 included a final list of schools and the seasons they will compete in. Seventeen schools opted to wrestle in the spring, while 60 schools will compete during the fall season.

Five speakers addressed the school board on the wrestling topic, citing reasons such as increased risk of injury, lack of competition, missed opportunities for scholarships, and increased travel costs as reasons to move to the spring season.

But school board member Nels Anderson said that it wasn't the school board's function to override the superintendent's decision, though he did admit he disagreed with Peterson's ruling.

"This is an administrative decision, and the board's job is not to interfere with the operation of the school district," Anderson said. "I happen to disagree with the superintendent, but I think she's done an excellent job. ... I'm going to support the superintendent in her decision."

In late February 2000, ASAA voted to declassify wrestling for the 2000-2001 season and created the two separate seasons.

Most of the state's smaller schools (1-2-3A) have opted to compete in the fall season, while the larger Anchorage, Mat-Su and Fairbanks schools (4A) will compete in the spring season.

The Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association passed a recommendation with a 5-3 vote to split up the district's schools, putting the smaller schools in the fall season and the large schools in the spring.

Peterson went against that recommendation. In a memo dated March 31, the superintendent cited several factors for keeping all the peninsula schools together.

n KPSAA's recommendation was not supported by an overwhelming majority, and the district's secondary school administrators were unanimous in their recommendation to have all peninsula schools wrestle during the same season.

n A change was needed in the scheduling of extracurricular activities. In the first quarter of the 1999-2000 school year, over 2,200 student absences to participate in extracurricular activities were reported, and the district spent over $11,000 to pay for substitute teachers.

n The school board has questioned the need for extensive travel off the peninsula for extracurricular activities, and the travel budget for 2000-2001 has been cut from $224,000 to $68,000.

n Peterson also took into account the fact that, with the exception of Anchorage, other school districts seemed to be waiting to see what KPBSD would do. Space availability at the smaller schools, overlap with other sports, and the availability of competition also were considered.

Those who disagree with Peterson's decision to make big schools wrestle in the fall say wrestling in the spring will not give adequate competition.

Peninsula 4A schools Homer, Kenai, Soldotna and Skyview will have just three other 4A schools to wrestle against next year -- Southeast schools Juneau-Douglas, Sitka and Ketchikan.

The decision to wrestle in the fall has the greatest negative impact on Skyview -- evidenced by the fact that the majority of wrestling boosters at the school board meeting had ties to the Skyview program.

Homer and Kenai had just a handful of athletes in their mat rooms this past season, and smaller school programs proved to be more than adequate competition.

In particular, Class 3A schools Nikiski and Seward showed they could wrestle with 4A programs. The Bulldogs defeated Skyview in a pair of dual meets, while the Seahawks won the small-schools state title.

"Most of the wrestlers want 4A competition," said Travis Bass, a Soldotna junior wrestler. "Peninsula schools are known for strong wrestling programs.

"The 3A state champs are tough, but we want the biggest and best schools."

Skyview is a perennial contender for the large schools state title, having won two of the past four 4A crowns. The Soldotna program has not quite reached the same status, but it has taken a quantum leap toward that end.

Supporters of a spring season believe that the limited competition of a fall season will limit opportunities for peninsula athletes.

"We can only be as strong as our competition," Hutchison told the board.

"Last year, we spent seven weeks in a row sleeping on floors so we could compete in tournaments," said Dave Carey, a teacher and wrestling coach at Skyview, saying that athletes need to get the best competition to become better athletes. "We cannot, for 10 weeks in a row, compete against (the peninsula teams). A trip to Southeast would wreck our budget in one weekend.

"Tournaments need alternate competition."

The Skyview booster club, anticipating a large contingent of seniors next season, has also been raising funds for a spring trip Outside -- a trip that the squad can't make if they wrestle in the fall.

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