Macon schools sticking with GISA

The whispers can stop now.

Mount de Sales, Stratford and Tattnall Square ended any speculation of a possible jump to the GHSA on Thursday by releasing a joint statement that they will remain in the GISA through at least 2012. The boards of all three schools voted Thursday to stay and released the statement as a sign of solidarity. The decision means First Presbyterian Day will make the move to the GHSA by itself in 2010.

The other three schools said they came to the decision independently. But they talked about voting and announcing their decision on the same day and at the same time.

“The indication was that we all seemed to be going the same way,” Mount de Sales headmaster Katy Prebble said.

Tattnall headmaster Barney Hester said he was surprised all three schools voted the same, but he felt it was important for the three schools to stay together.

Officials from Stratford couldn’t be reached for comment.

The schools said FPD’s decision didn’t influence Thursday’s vote. But they had to make a decision prior to the GHSA’s April deadline for admittance.

Mount de Sales and Tattnall formed fact-finding committees following FPD’s September decision to leave. There had been both formal and informal discussions during the past few years, but the talks grew serious after FPD’s decision and with the GHSA deadline looming.

“We did what is best for our school,” Hester said. “We can’t look at what FPD decided to do. For our particular school, this is the right decision at the right time.”

Hester and Prebble both said that the number of parents who wanted to remain in the GISA was larger than the number of parents who wanted to join the GHSA.

“We had a group of parents who felt the school would make the best decision,” said Prebble, who solicited opinions from parents on four separate occasions. “We had a very vocal group who felt we should stay and a smaller group that wanted us to go. ... We aren’t in a bubble. We have a very diverse population. Our school is located downtown. This wasn’t about our students joining the real world.”

Despite the decision to stay in the GISA, the Macon schools still have concerns that could influence future decisions.

FPD will be joined by George Walton in the GHSA, and many of the metro Atlanta schools that join the GISA have used the independent organization as a stepping stone to the GHSA.

“This is a dead issue for the next scheduling period,” Hester said. “It’s not a dead issue forever. We need more schools like us, like our size.”

Said Prebble, “I think it’s certainly going to be an active and open conversation over the next several years. We will continue to look at the opportunities the GHSA offer.”

For FPD, the trek to the GHSA will be a solo one.

The school hasn’t wavered in its decision to leave, FPD athletics director Greg Moore said.

“I’m not really surprised (by the other schools’ decisions),” he said. “I think the other schools are being very careful to do what we were being very careful to do, to do what is in the best interest of their school.

“We certainly hope their decision changes in the years ahead. We certainly respect their decisions. They have to do what is in the best interest in their schools. I wish them well.”

Moore said a number of GHSA private schools have called to offer help during the transition period.

“I’m reminded every day that we made the right decision,” Moore said. “I’m looking forward to our interaction with both the private and public schools around the state.”