By Kathi Bliss
Despite the best efforts of the Lockhart ISD Administration, Lockhart High School students and parents will be forced to make extra time for travel during their sports seasons for the next two years.
The University Interscholastic League (UIL) District Appeals Committee met on Monday morning and heard 12 appeals from districts across the state, including Lockhart’s. By the end of the day, the committee opted to deny 11 of the 12 appeals, only granting a change in basketball alignment for Brackettville Brackett High School.
Appeals for Lockhart, along with Barksdale Nueces Canyon, Shallowater, Ferris, Irving North Hills Prep, Paint Rock (for football and basketball), McKinney, McKinney Boyd, Amarillo Tacosa and Pollock Central, were all denied, according to information released by UIL on Monday afternoon.
LISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra, along with LHS athletic staff and administrators, prepared the appeal last week after UIL announced the 2012-2014 district alignments on Feb. 2. The alignment for District 27-4A grouped Lockhart with Hays and Lehman, along with Seguin, Boerne Champion, Smithson Valley, Alamo Heights and Kerrville Tivy. The appeal requested a change into District 26-4A, which would group Lockhart with seven schools in the Austin Independent School District.
The basis of the appeal was what Parra called the “educational and economic hardship” that traveling to schools such as Kerrville Tivy (at 238 miles round trip) and Boerne Champion (170 miles round trip) would create, not only for students who would be missing class time to travel for away games, but also for families in an economically-strapped community.
The District’s position, Parra said prior to the appeal, is that families should not have to choose between traveling to an away game to support a child’s extracurricular activities, and buying food or other necessities for their families.
However, despite the committee’s decision on Monday, Parra remains steadfast and optimistic about the Lions’ and Lady Lions’ futures.
“Although our appeal was based on valid issues, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) denied our appeal to move from District 27-4A to District 26-4A,” he said in a
written statement Tuesday. “Such a change would have reduced the adverse academic and economic hardship on our students and community that the District 27-4A alignment may cause. Regardless of travel distances, rest assured that Lockhart students, staff, and community will enthusiastically face these challenges in true Lion spirit for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.”
In all, the district alignment impacts hundreds of students, not only on the football field, but also those who participate in all sports, as well as members of the marching band, drill teams and cheerleading squads, in addition to team managers and student trainers.
LISD plans appeal of district realignment **UPDATED Feb. 17, 2012**
By Kathi Bliss
Rumors that started last week were confirmed by Lockhart ISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra on Monday, when he announced that LISD has chosen to appeal the realignment decision made last week by the University Interscholastic League.
The original districting plan, which placed Lockhart in District 27, Class 4A, pitted Lockhart athletes against schools throughout South Central Texas and the Hill Country, including Kerrville Tivy and Boerne Champion, as well as old rivals Hays and Lehman, Schertz Clemens, Alamo Heights and Seguin High School.
Pleading that placement in District 27-4A would create not only an economic, but an educational hardship, LISD has opted to wage an appeal, asking to be included in District 26-4A.
Historically, District 26 has included only Austin Independent School District schools, including Crockett, Johnston, Eastside Memorial, McCallum, Travis, Lanier and Reagan.
“If UIL grants the appeal and puts us into District 26, the longest travel time we have is 38 miles,” Parra said on Monday afternoon. “And that’s an enormous difference from the 120 miles to Tivy, and that’s going to make a huge impact on our students.”
Parra said part of the basis for the two-prong appeal is the fact that traveling to away games in places such as Kerrville and Boerne would have an adverse educational impact on the students. For away games, particularly at the sub-varsity level, students might have to leave their classes as early as noon to arrive on time for 5:30 p.m. games.
“If you consider up to three hours of travel time, plus the time it takes to get the students on the bus and ready to go, we might have to take them out of class at lunchtime, in order to get them to the games on time,” he said. “And that’s just… we don’t want our kids to have to miss that much class.”
In addition, he said, the students at the varsity level might have to return home as late as 1 a.m., after playing a game and traveling at night through the sometimes dangerous road conditions in the Hill Country.
“It’s just better for our kids, in terms of their classroom time and rest, if UIL will put us in 26-4A,” Parra said.
Furthermore, the district is pursuing the appeal on the basis of a financial hardship, hoping to remind UIL that parents in a district with 70 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, parents may have to choose between buying groceries and buying gas to travel to see their students participate in sporting events.
“The parents in our district have to work, many of them in Austin,” Parra said. “To travel to Kerrville or Boerne, they might have to take off work early, come back to Lockhart to get their families ready to go, and then travel to the games. At some point, they will have to decide whether their job is more important than supporting their kids, and they shouldn’t have to make that choice.”
With regard to fuel costs, Parra said he expected placement in District 27-4A could increase travel costs for the school district by up to 25 percent.
“The good thing is, they look at each appeal on its own basis, for that school district only,” he said. “They won’t look at our appeal and say, ‘well, the same argument could apply to Hays or Lehman,’ and then make their decision. They’re looking only at our situation.”
Another thing that might weigh in LISD’s favor is the state of matters within District 26-4A, which has been struggling with football programs for several years. Last year, in fact, Austin Eastside Memorial opted not to field a varsity football team, and rumors abound that they may repeat that decision this year, leaving 26-4A as a six-team district. There are also rumors that Reagan High might not be in the position to field a team, thereby only leaving five teams in the district, and ensuring four of those five a spot in the playoffs.
“That might not be a major factor in their consideration, and frankly for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter if it is,” Parra said. “But that is something that’s going to be in the back of their minds when they’re considering our appeal.”
Parra reiterated the appeal is not driven by a competitive spirit, and would probably lose steam if it were. Rather, he said, the spirit behind the appeal is based upon what district officials believe is best for the students, and for the community at large.
Parra will present the appeal to UIL on Monday, Feb. 20, and expects the committee will make a decision by Tuesday, Feb. 21.
**** EARLIER (FEB. 9, 2012)
District realignment spells long nights, tough competition for Lions
By Kathi Bliss
After spending two years struggling in a district filled with powerhouse schools, the Lockhart Lion and Lady Lion athletic departments saw a light at the end of the tunnel last Thursday, when the University Interscholastic League (UIL) promised an announcement on district realignments. Instead, Lockhart fans thought, local athletes should have the chance to face opponents from comparable school districts, with equitable programs, giving the Lions and Lady Lions a fair chance to grow, thrive and compete.
The good news, on Thursday, was that Smithson Valley and New Braunfels Canyon, two of Lockhart’s main stumbling blocks in athletics for the last two years, have been reclassified, and will now compete in Class 5A.
The bad news is that the realignment for District 27-AAAA now leaves Lockhart families in the position of doubling, and sometimes tripling, their travel time to watch their students compete.
Under the realignment announced on Feb. 2, 2012, District 27-AAAA will now consist of: Lockhart High School, Jack C. Hays High School, Lehman High School, Seguin High School, Boerne-Champion High School, Kerrville-Tivy High School, Samuel Clemens High School and Alamo Heights High School.
Although the realignment eases some of the pressure of facing powerhouse schools, the District 27 realignment preserves a high quality of athleticism and competition, and brings an additional challenge for the Lions and Lady Lions – as well as an additional challenge for their fans.
Lockhart parents are used to driving 15 miles to Lehman High, or even 35 miles, as they will to face Seguin. Kerrville-Tivy, however, is 116 miles away. Boerne-Champion? 77 miles.
As far as competition is concerned, Lion Head Coach and Athletic Coordinator Paul Kilby is measured, but optimistic.
He said he’s confident his Lions can compete, regardless of the district they are placed in. Entering his second year at the helm of the Lion football program, Kilby said he was pleased with the progress made in his first season, and that he believes there are yet greater things ahead for the Lions.
On the gridiron, the Lions will face a number of challenges over the course of the coming season, including the Tivy High Antlers. Last year, Coach Mark Smith’s Antlers went 11-3, undefeated within their district and going three-deep in playoffs before falling 45-15 to Calallen.
Almost equally as impressive, but more “comfortable,” are the Alamo Heights Mules and the Hays Rebels, both of whom went two deep in playoffs and ended the season 8-4-0. In the first round of playoffs, Coach Don Byrd’s Mules took down Boerne-Champion, before falling to the Dripping Springs Tigers.
In their first year without legendary coach Bob Shelton, the Rebels were 5-1-0 in district, falling 42-0 in the second round of playoffs to Cedar Park.
Lehman, Boerne and Clemens each had mediocre seasons last year, if one believes the box scores. Coach Steve Davis’ Lobos were 6-4-0 on the season and 2-4 in district. Though they did not earn a playoff bid, they closed their season by walloping the Lions 31-7.
Boerne-Champion, on the other hand, made the first round of playoffs, where they slammed into the wall that was the Alamo Heights Mules. Otherwise, the Chargers, led by Coach Danny Threadgill, were 5-6-0 on the season, and 3-3 in district. The only other team they faced last year that will return to the Chargers district schedule is Tivy, who defeated the Chargers 45-20.
The Buffaloes of Samuel Clemens had a lukewarm season, ending their 4-6 season (1-5 in District play) with a 34-17 loss to Alamo Heights.
Finally, Seguin High School had a season much like the Lions’ last year, out-gunned in a bigger, richer district. Coach Wayne Walker’s Matadors competed as best they could against teams like the Judson Rockets, the New Braunfels Unicorns and the Steele Knights. They closed their season at 1-8-1, with a 1-4 record in district play. They tied the Anderson Trojans, and put up a 26-8 win over the San Marcos Rattlers before closing their season.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Lions’ non-conference schedule is set to include Cedar Creek, Victoria West and Austin Crockett. The Lions continue through off-season training and are looking forward to the challenges presented by a new district and new opponents.
The travel times from Lockhart High School to the other schools within the proposed District 27-4A are:
Hays – 30 min.
Lehman – 27 min
Tivy – 2 hr., 20 min.
Champion – 1 hr., 32 min.
Alamo Heights – 1 hr., 10 min.
Clemens – 1 hr., 3 min.
Seguin – 42 min.