The Kansas State Board of Education will consider a proposal this week that would affect how private schools such as Topeka’s Hayden High School and Cair Paravel Latin School report their enrollment for sports and activity competitions.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) will present at the board of education meeting Tuesday and Wednesday a recommendation to use a multiplication formula to account for the enrollment of the state’s 28 private schools that are members of the association.
Who would be affected in the Topeka area by the multiplier?
Developed by a KSHSAA task force, the multiplier formula was approved by the association’s Board of Directors last April, then went through a vote by all member schools in June. It now goes to the 10-member Board of Education.
If that group approves the proposal, it will go to the state legislature because the way classifications are determined is established by state statute.
The odds will apply to any school that has won five or more state championships in a five-year period. It will then tackle multipliers based on geography and socio-economic composition.
More ▼:The KSHSAA recommends using a multiplier formula to classify private schools
Naturally, Topeka’s two private schools that participate in KSHSAA activities paid close attention to creating the formula.
If implemented today, the formula would have no impact on Hayden or Khair Paravel because neither has won five championships in the last five years. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point.
Just two years after joining the KSHSAA, Cair Paravel won a state cheerleading championship last school year. He finished second in the Scholars Bowl. And its girls soccer team reached the 4A-1A state final four despite being the only 1A school in the state with a girls soccer team last year.
Meanwhile, Hayden has won 73 state championships in its history.
Hayden fears that one sport can trump others
“I don’t understand why it’s only in private schools,” Hayden Athletic Director Bobby Towle said of the multiplier proposal. “To me, if you’re going to do it, let’s do it with everybody.”
“There are public schools that have achieved as much or more success than some private schools.”
Towle pointed to Darby, Baldwin and Buehler as schools that would exceed the “success factor” in the formula because of an inordinate amount of success in just one sport. He pointed out that exceptional success in one sport does not mean general superiority.
“If you’re really good at football and you win a state championship, they move you up a class,” Towle said. “But what about your other sports—your basketball, track, baseball, softball?
“They may not be very successful. But you can be pushed to force them to compete at an even higher level just for the success of football.”
Bishop Mige’s dominance is cause for concern
Towle said the motivation to introduce the multiplier appears to be motivated by the dominance of a few private schools, primarily Bishop Miege in Kansas City.
The 4A school won five state titles last year – boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer and boys golf. Miege has won 20 team championships in the last five years, although a number of activities were canceled in the spring of 2020.
“I think it’s pretty common knowledge that there are several public schools that have a plan to go after a private school,” Towle said. “Understood. I know a lot of people talked about this at the 4A girls basketball state tournament.
“This Miege team was very good.
“I can see the frustration with public schools because some of these schools have had the best results they’ve ever had, and then they run into a machine that’s very well-tuned and they get destroyed.”
The Hayden boys basketball team lost to eventual boys champion Miege 62-50 in the state semifinal game.
“Our guys had to play with them,” Towle said. “It’s just the luck of the draw.
“We were just like, ‘Okay.’ Let’s play Miege. When you play sports, sometimes you will face difficulties. You will have to play against some really great teams. We will not give in to them.”
Towle said creating a rule that applies to all private schools just to address the dominance of one or two seems like an overreaction.
“Just because we’re private, we’re lumped in with those you’ve targeted,” Towle said.
Most private schools do not have unlimited funds
Gary Cleverdon, athletic director at Cair Paravel, said public schools pushing the proposal may be motivated by misconceptions.
“I heard their arguments. A lot of it has to do with a lack of education,” Cleverdon said. “They think private schools have an advantage because somehow we have unlimited funds.
“I don’t know where they think we get the money, but they think we have these plush weight rooms and equipment. We’ve had that discussion, and that’s just not the case.”
KSHSAA Assistant Executive Director Jeremy Holladay agreed that some may believe private schools have access to more financial resources than they actually do.
“I would say the majority of public schools, whether it’s administrators, coaches or teachers, don’t realize that private schools have amenities that are (of a lower quality) than public schools,” he said . “More often than not, private schools lag far behind public schools in terms of facilities.
“And then I would say the general public has an even more inaccurate perception than the people representing the public schools.”
Hayden’s gym is not air-conditioned, football field has ‘poor man’s grass’
“We didn’t make any statement to make sure they knew that, but what we tried to do was make sure there was a good representation of every class and location of the private schools on the ranking committee to make sure , that they have a voice.
“I do remember the private schools expressing that concern to the rest of the committee. Now whether that message got back to the schools they represent or not, we don’t know for sure.”
“I’ve always looked at our school as a blue-collar school,” Towle said. “The majority of our moms and dads who send their kids here are blue-collar workers.
“When you look at our facilities, we have a gym that is over 50 years old. It is not air conditioned. And people complain that we don’t have air conditioning and they don’t want to come here and play with us because we don’t have air conditioning.
“But our kids are getting used to it. They walk into this hall and sweat like crazy.
“Look at our soccer field. Everyone else has grass everywhere. We call our PMT – “the poor man’s pitch”. We have bermuda grass in there. We are finally getting new lights to replace the lights that have been there since the field was built in the 1950s.
“We’re old school. In fact, we may lose students who attend glitz and glamor schools.”
Most private schools do not recruit
Cleverdon pointed to another common criticism of private schools.
“A lot of people think that private schools are recruiting,” Cleverdon said. “But just because you move a school up the rankings doesn’t stop them from recruiting.
“If a school recruits well enough to beat everybody in 4A, who’s to say it won’t beat everybody in 5A or 6A?”
Indeed, the Miege boys basketball team that won the 2021 4A state title features Duke University’s Mark Mitchell and Kansas State’s Taj Manning.
This team, which beat Lewisburg 94-40 in the final game, probably would have beaten any team in the state, regardless of class.
Towle said some private schools may hire, but that doesn’t mean all do.
“You can go back and look at our enrollment and you can see that the majority of our kids are Catholic kids,” Towle said. “They are home children. They have gone through our system.
“I’ve always joked when someone accuses us of recruiting, ‘Okay, where’s our 6-foot-9 basketball player?’ Where’s that 6-foot-4, 235-pound linebacker?’ If we’re going out and recruiting kids, where are those kids?’
Cair Paravel joined the KSHSAA knowing the pros outweighed the cons
Cair Paravel finds itself in the thick of the multiplier debate just two years after joining the KSHSAA. Cleverdon helped spearhead efforts to win the school membership. He said the multiplier issue didn’t catch the school off guard.
“This is not a new topic,” Cleverdon said. “One of the biggest hurdles we faced was convincing the school board that if we joined the KSHSAA, it wouldn’t force us to change what we were doing internally.
“We are different and we are proud to be different in many ways. We may end up getting hit by the multiplier. But definitely the pros (of membership) outweigh the cons.”
“They are an intermediary”
Cleverdon noted that the KSHSAA sought input from private schools in developing the multiplication formula.
“A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that the KSHSAA is the one driving this. It’s not,’ said Cleverdon. “I spoke to Bill Paflick about our concerns. KSHSAA is not the one who is the ugly guy trying to change everything. They are an intermediary.”
“We are not the driving force behind this. We are the facilitator in that,” Holladay said. “We like to say that we are the people charged with interpreting and carrying out the will of the member schools. They are the KSHSAA.
“We in Topeka are just the people to help make sure their wish comes true.”
Cleverdon said that to his knowledge no one had contacted Cair Paravel to lobby against or take legal action in response to the proposal. He expects the larger private schools to make their opposition to the plan known at the board meeting and to the Legislature, if necessary.
“We discussed it at our (Kaw Valley Conference, which includes several private schools in the Kansas City area) athletic directors meeting,” Cleverdon said. “Some of the Kansas City schools said they’ve been asked by these larger schools that are affected, basically asking them for support.”
Hayden is no stranger to playing big schools, Towle said, and therefore has no plans to fight the multiplier offer.
“It will be what it will be,” Towle said. “If we bump, we’ll be bumped.
“We have never refused to play with someone. We play in the Centennial League. We are a 4A school in a 6A league. We had 327 kids last year and we’re going up against Washburn Rural who have over 2000. We’re not whining or crying about it.
“That’s the way it is.
“We look at it as if we want to compete with the bigger schools, we have to get better. We have to work harder.”