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Published: Sunday, 12/30/2012

Don’t call Whitmer settlement a fine

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The Ohio High School Athletic Association recently completed its 17-month investigation of why so many students are transferring to Whitmer High School (“Whitmer forfeits football, basketball wins; School will pay $50,000 to state in eligibility case,” Dec. 21). Students transfer to our schools because of extraordinary options provided by caring staff who create a safe haven.

Throughout the course of this ordeal, we remained silent. Water-cooler talk and Internet sites were filled with accusations of cheating, recruiting, and complicity. They were malicious, baseless, and damaging.

Innocent kids had to hear rumors and see misbehavior that forced them to withstand taunts and vitriol for simply playing the games that they love.

The OHSAA looked back for four years at every athlete and coach, and sent investigators door to door. Yet the investigation resulted in zero sanctions and no probation.

The only sanction was not a result of the investigation, but arose from a different issue that occurred at the same time: the district’s decision to follow Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Frederick McDonald’s order.

The court order demanded that the school district allow a student to participate in interscholastic athletics until a further order. Prior to this order, this student was not participating in athletics at Whitmer High School. We always will abide by a court order.

The OHSAA forced us to forfeit our 2011-2012 seasons of football and boys’ basketball because we allowed the student-athlete to participate.

Although we disagree with its decision, we felt that spending any more tax dollars to defend ourselves would be irresponsible to our kids, staff, and community.

We agreed to spend $50,000 (.0006 percent of our yearly budget) to share the cost of the OHSAA investigation. We agreed that this was not a fine because a fine indicates wrongdoing. We paid this cost because we did not precisely follow OHSAA bylaws on home visits for transfer students.

Washington Local Schools is growing in a city that is shrinking, and we did conduct home visits. But 3,000 students transferred to our district in the past three years; thus, we were challenged in doing them as regularly as OHSAA desires. We have corrected that issue.

We also did not ensure that all of our coaches had the proper permit on the first day of coaching. Although we are not making excuses, a recent study found that 43 percent of area high school football and basketball coaches did not have the proper permit.

The OHSAA readily admits a higher than anticipated level of noncompliance on this issue. We have corrected that issue as well.

The OHSAA called these procedural changes exemplary, while agreeing that our institution is ethical and honest.

We are pleased to move forward and lift this cloud of suspicion from our school district. We resume our mission of educating and loving the children entrusted to our care.

PATRICK HICKEY

Superintendent Washington Local Schools

West Lincolnshire Boulevard



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