District 56 superintendent Dr. David O’Shields, Clinton director of athletics Nickie Templeton and head football coach Andrew Webb attended the meeting to lobby in vain for further consideration of the matter.
“All we wanted was the common courtesy of making our case,” O’Shields said. “They had previously made up their minds. They allowed us to speak, but their intentions were clear from the beginning. They weren’t going to do anything.”
Union County requested the move because of travel hardships in Class 4A. Clinton and Union County (formerly Union before schools there were consolidated) are familiar rivals. The problem is that moving the Yellow Jackets’ athletic teams to 3A makes the school much larger than its competitors. Furthermore, eight current 4A schools have enrollments lower than Union County.
The Appellate Panel voted down the protests of Spartanburg School Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4, Greenwood 50 and Laurens 56 (Clinton) after it was turned down 14-0 by the high school league’s Executive Committee. Union County’s enrollment is 287 more than the region’s smallest member. The difference between the other five schools is less than half of that.
Another problem was that the other schools affected were not informed. The SCHSL office had sent a memo to all schools stipulating that no moves would be made without the approval of schools in the affected region, but none of the Region 3 schools was informed before it was enacted. No one disputed the breakdown in communications, but the League’s counsel, Mike Montgomery, said the body had no legal requirement to inform the affected parties.
Regarding the High School League failure to follow its own standards of communications, O’Shields said, “Their excuse was that the directive was sent to the region director. In my view, that was just passing the buck that someone else didn’t do it.”
Woodruff superintendent Rallie Liston, the most strenuous critic of the move, said he was looking for another avenue to seek “due process.”
“I feel like the concerns of due process have not yet been addressed,” Liston told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “They still need an answer. Maybe this committee couldn’t answer that, but my questions are greater than any one school. It’s about equal representation and a right to be heard. This organization exists on public tax money. The panel is appointed by the Legislature. To me, the right to due process exists. It’s just hard for me to understand that it’s fair to hear one side and not the other.”
As it now stands, and is almost certain to remain, Region 3-3A will consist, beginning next year, of Clinton, Union County, Woodruff, Newberry, Mid-Carolina and Emerald. Chapman and Broome will leave. Union County and Emerald will enter. Union County’s superintendent, Bill Roach, defended the change. Clinton, Woodruff, Emerald, Chapman and Broome all opposed it, along with Chesnee and Landrum, a pair of schools at the bottom of 3A that had appealed their reclassifications.
“We (District 56) didn’t bring up anything other than we had not been given an opportunity to speak or given notice that the move was imminent,” O’Shields said. “It’s no offense to Union proper, but if you want my opinion, the (executive) committee has gone down a slippery slope. We all have matters we have to deal with and adjust to.”
According to O’Shields, Union County’s original goal was to be placed in Region 2-3A, but the League placed it in Region 3 to balance both regions with six members.
“Our kids are missing too much time out of school,” Roach said to the Herald-Journal. “They get home late and they’re tired and don’t have time for homework, or they miss school the next day because they sleep in. All those things are negatively impacting achievement. We’re already trying to change that. Competition is not a worry for me. I’m worried about kids and their academic performance and anything we can do to assist in that.
“We sent our proposal to the 4A and 3A officials and asked them to please disseminate the materials. We had no idea that process hadn’t been met.”