Hutton: Lighthouse loses out on IHSAA numbers game
By Mike Hutton 613-0141 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter:@MikeHuttonPT March 30, 2013 11:08PM
Lowell's Aaron Hamm shoots past Gary Lighthouse Academy's Thomas Smith during a game on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, in Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 1, 2013 4:08PM
It’s hard for Thomas Smith and Quincy Taylor not to be skeptical and understandably frustrated about the intentions of the IHSAA and its latest reclassification job.
The basketball coach and the athletic director, respectively, at Lighthouse Academy feel like they got the royal Indianapolis shaft when the new numbers were announced last month, leaving them locked into 3A for at least two more years when in reality, they are a 2A school — or rather will be when they combine with East Chicago Lighthouse and West Gary Lighthouse next year.
“They’re giving us extra students we don’t have,” Smith said, “and it’s not fair. If they want all these township schools to go down state, fine. But at least be fair about it.”
Ah, yes. It’s the great conspiracy theory. That the IHSAA, led by Commissioner Bobby Cox, has something against the charters, which are popping up all over the state like dandelions in the spring, and their competitive advantage. It’s great to have choices (sometimes) but the sprawling, maze of schools that spring up every year make the administrative duties for the IHSAA complicated.
Bottom line: The IHSAA gave the new Lighthouse Academy an extra 65 students that it says it won’t have.
An extra 65 students it says it can’t have, at least.
The IHSAA projected Lighthouse’s enrollment to be 589.
Lighthouse says those are crazy numbers, and even if that’s what the projection is, they are numbers that are impossible for the school.
The school can’t physically accommodate more than 525 students, according to Taylor. It would need to build out to go above 525.
The extra 65 students is a big deal. Class 2A starts at 538 in 2A and 3A ends at 544 students.
As it stands, Lighthouse goes from being a big 2A school to being a really small 3A school. It’ll be even smaller if it doesn’t hit that 525 number — something that Taylor says is possible. Lighthouse be ground beef for Bowman in sectionals.
The IHSAA doesn’t dispute the numbers that Lighthouse is using, though, it doesn’t necessarily accept them either.
What the IHSAA maintains is that it has no choice to but to go by the numbers provided to the Department of Education.
The problem is that neither West Gary nor East Chicago has a senior class and EC doesn’t even have a junior class. That means it’s a wild guessing game for the IHSAA when it has to insert averages.
For instance, Lighthouse is fine with the 224 number it came up with for its school but the junior and senior classes for EC and West Gary were just the averages for the freshmen and sophomores at EC and the averages for the first three grades at West Gary.
The numbers from the IHSAA projections come out to 224 for Lighthouse, 181 for West Gary and 190 for EC.
The big problem right out of the gate is that EC won’t be adding to the senior class since its school stops right now at 10th grade. That means the projections also automatically give it an extra 47.5 students, which drops itinto 2A territory. Taylor contends, too, that the numbers being used now are incorrect. For instance, Lighthouse has 220 students, not 224 and West Gary 130 students, not 146.
For Smith, the notion that he is going to have to jump from 1A to 3A, with a 2A student population, is frustrating.
“I feel like they think we recruit and they just want us to be 3A,” he said. “It’s all about the charter schools. I don’t recruit.”
Taylor believes that Cox made a mistake but he doesn’t want to admit it. Cox, according to Smith, has said that some schools have purposely underestimated their populations and that is why the IHSAA uses numbers from the IDOE.
Cox also said this situation has happened before with other schools and the IHSAA has handled it the same way.
When Lighthouse asked for details — which schools and what were the circumstances — Cox wouldn’t provide them, according to Taylor.
I find Cox’s claim to be dubious, at best, about other schools combining in exactly the same manner. It seems unusual to combine three charters — one that goes to 10th grade, one that goes to 11th and one that goes to 12th grade. Cox has more or less told Lighthouse to suck it up and deal with it for two more years because there is no procedure in place to appeal the numbers.
Well, maybe, someone should get a procedure in place so this doesn’t happen again and again and again. It’s a problem that could and should be addressed with more than a haphazard guess at who’s coming to school next year by an organization that is supposed to work for its members, not against them.
And one that has rewritten the rules in the last couple of years to try to make the tournaments more fair.