Chad Campbell, Benjy Rogers and Jim Finch voted “no.”
They didn’t expect to make up only about 30 percent of that segment when the GHSA executive committee was presented with some fairly notable changes in the latest reclassification plan.
“I’m just kind of befuddled,” said Campbell, the football head coach and athletics director at Class AAA Peach County and a member of the executive committee. “The numbers that voted yes to no, I had no clue it’d be like that. I thought it’d be close.”
The executive committee voted 47-10 to adopt a Big 44 super class, enact a “bump clause” for schools with more than 3 percent of their enrollment from outside of their county.
And the new reclassification period could last four years, although that will be determined with another vote in the spring.
Overall, the reclassification discussion lasted less than an hour.
“I really thought it would go through,” said Rogers, athletics director at Class AA Bleckley County. “I thought there would be a few more ‘no’ votes from the AA, AAA and AAAA people. At the same time, people have a different understanding of what’s going on.”
Impact on Middle Georgia high schools is an unknown until enrollment figures are released, which is expected to be in early October. That will include the equation regarding out-of-zone students.
The Big 44, although that number will change with schools playing up, won’t directly affect the area because no high school is very close to being in the top 10 percent of enrollment. There are 44 schools with enrollments of 2,000 or better based on the last reclassification numbers, but that likely will change when the latest figures are released in October.
But the trickle-down effect would be felt as the state’s number of classes changed. Those specifics won’t be known until the figures are updated, and schools outside of the Big 44 wanting to play up are counted. Region alignments won’t be determined until January.
Schools in Classes AA to Class AAAAA with more than 3 percent of their enrollment coming from outside of their county are subject to being pushed up to the next classification. According to the state’s Department of Education website, there are nearly two dozen city school systems in addition to 159 county systems. Those city schools now count the entire county as their zone for accounting for out-of-zone students. That remains a sticking point, and that’s what got Campbell’s no vote, along with the fact that the schools in the small-private class were exempt from the 3-percent rule.
“They can get as many (out of zone) kids as they want,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t affect them.”
Rogers also voted no, primarily for that reason.
“The question I had is (about) the 3 percent only getting on certain classifications,” he said. “I just think it ought to be straight across the board, if you’re going to do it. I understand the reasoning why it’s not, I really do. But up front, it just doesn’t look that way.”
Rogers didn’t know where his school fell in terms of what percent of out-of-zone students it had.
“But there’s a good chance we could get bumped up,” he said, noting the education quality at Bleckley County as a draw.
Schools with no out-of-zone students, like Washington County, won’t be directly affected. The Golden Hawks, interestingly enough, have played in two straight state title games against city schools, Buford and Calhoun.
Those two schools will be able to draw from their counties, Gwinnett (population of about 880,000) and Gordon (57,000). Gwinnett’s system has 20 high schools and Gordon two.
Longstanding situations similar to that are why Campbell and Finch were surprised the vote wasn’t closer.
“I think people recognize it as being some type of movement towards putting a little more parity back into the competition,” said Finch, principal at Mary Persons and former assistant football coach at Peach County. “I voted against it because I didn’t think it was enough.”
Rogers is optimistic.
“I know the purpose behind it is to limit some of these schools (from) getting kids from five different counties,” he said. “That’s why I say I think we’re going in the right direction. It’s just a lot of what-ifs. Any time you do something new, there’s a lot of what-ifs.”
So was there any leveling of the playing field?
“In my opinion, no,” Campbell said. “You created a bigger class, and then everybody else, I don’t know. We’ll have to see numbers and everything and where the numbers fall.
“I reckon they leveled the playing field for those who are sitting at 1,800 or 1,900 students compared to those with 4,000 students, 3,500, stuff like that.”
Assorted disagreements aside, Rogers and Finch were impressed with what was accomplished.
“They’ve been all over this state,” Finch said of the reclassification committee. “I applaud every effort they’ve done. I certainly hope none of those on the reclassification committee thought my ‘no’ vote was any type of dissatisfaction, thinking they hadn’t done good work.
“It’s the best work I’ve seen on reclassification.”