School officials voice opinions on classification plan

Louisiana High School Athletic Association Executive Director Kenny Henderson smiled as he addressed the group of Class 5A principals.

“Are we happy with 5A?” Henderson asked. “Maybe I should have taken ya’ll first.”

The Class 5A segement concluded the LHSAA’s second classification meeting held Wednesday at the LHSAA office. It was also among the easiest portions of the meeting.

Discussions about districting plans for 2013-14 and 2014-15 got slightly heated during the four-hour meeting. Class 3A issues, including football power John Curtis’ placement in a Baton Rouge district, were notable. So was one proposed alignment of 4A teams in New Orleans and plans for Baton Rouge’s 2A teams.

“We had almost had every one of these same conversations among ourselves in our office,” Henderson said. “It’s just the nature of the beast. There are only certain ways you can divide up the teams.”

There were notable factors about the second Class 5A plan released earlier this week that didn’t prompt debate. New Orleans parochial schools were placed in District 9-5A, reformulating the traditional Catholic League.

For Baton Rouge, Henderson’s Plan 2 was selected by member principals and placed teams in I-10 and I-12 corridors with Ascension Parish and Baton Rouge teams in 5-5A and Broadmoor joining the Livingston Parish-based 4-5A that also includes Central, Scotlandville and Zachary.

The LHSAA’s executive committee will finalize the two-year districting plan at a meeting set for Dec. 12. Henderson said he will be sending out district options to some schools with issues during the next couple of days and will also produce a third districting plan to the executive committee.

From west to east

Henderson allowed principals from different areas of the state to discuss their issues with one of the two classification plans.

In Class 3A, southwest area schools debated the placement of Notre Dame and Iota in several districts, and Henderson agreed to send the group alternatives to consider.

Henderson’s Plan 2 still had Curtis in 7-3A with Brusly, Donaldsonville, Port Allen and St. Charles Catholic.

Several other options, including ones that would combine parts of 7-3A with 6-3A that features Parkview Baptist and University High, were discussed.

Representatives for New Orleans-based 10-3A, including De La Salle Athletic Director Tony Bonura, objected to a move to put Curtis, located in the New Orleans suburb of River Ridge, in their district, saying it would break up a group of teams and rivalries. The group argued Curtis has played in a River Parish league and not in New Orleans recently. Curtis had no representative at the meeting.

“Our issue wasn’t really about Curtis, but that’s what is moving everything,” Bonura said. “We want our eight New Orleans school teams together. We don’t want a ninth school. We want what makes sense.

“If you look at geographically it makes sense for our eight schools to be together. We’re located in close proximity. Unfortunately for Curtis they would not get into that plan with us, McMain and Lusher.”

St. Charles Athletic Director Frank Monica and Brusly Principal Walt Lemoine were among those who argued Curtis should be placed in a New Orleans district. E.D. White Athletic Director Preston LeJeune suggested a combination of Henderson’s Plan 1 and Plan 2.

“I think it was pretty obvious that a New Orleans school doesn’t belong in a Baton Rouge district,” Lemoine said. “If we end up in an eight-team district in Baton Rouge, that would be good. If it’s a seven-team district, we can deal with that. I feel much better about this meeting than the first one.”

Some suggested subdivisions in New Orleans area-based Districts 7-4A and 9-4A also attracted opposition. Karr Principal John Hiser objected to an alternative to Plan 2 that would have placed his school and O.P. Walker away from other Orleans teams.

“I think the association as much as possible should operate on the basis of geography,” Hiser said. “Basically take the shortest distance between two points and be consistent.”

Class 2A placement

South Baton Rouge-based Runnels, a nonfootball school, requested a move from the Baton Rouge-based 6-2A to 7-2A that features two other nonfootball schools in Livingston Parish-based Doyle and French Settlement.

Meanwhile, Episcopal expressed concerns about its 6-2A, which would have either seven or eight teams, for sports like basketball. St. Helena Central requested a move from 7-2A to a Baton Rouge district and also suggested breaking SHC, Northeast and East Feliciana off into a district based on their proximity to each other.

Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur said the size of 6-2A would require district basketball games to be scheduled in December.

Also noted was St. James High’s request to move to either Baton Rouge’s 6-2A or a 10-2A, a New Orleans district with schools in closer proximity to the River Parishes. Byron Keller represented St. James and said his school would like to see 6-2A split, opening up the option for SJHS.