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City League, WPIAL merger still far off

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Any potential merger between the WPIAL and the City League won't be coming until 2013 at the earliest.

Until then, there appears to plenty of other athletic reforms -- and reform discussions -- to keep the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education busy.

Jake House, the school district's new student services director of athletics and head of its athletic overhaul committee, presented the committee's sweeping recommendations to the board Tuesday evening in Oakland.

But one of the most notable recommendations -- the dissolution of the century-old City League and merging the league's teams into the WPIAL -- was listed under "Things that we want to do but may have to wait" in House's PowerPoint presentation.

Any change to league structure would have to come after revamped guidelines for hiring coaches and an effort to improve facilities, according to House. Also, a vote of all PIAA districts is needed to merge the City League with the WPIAL.

"On the big issue of City League or non-City League, I want to give that one some more thought, and, frankly, get more information," Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane said.

"What would it mean, in terms of what time kids would have to leave in the afternoon to go to games• What would our costs be for the transportation• What about our families who don't have access to a car• How do they get to watch their daughter play basketball if it's not here in Pittsburgh• Those are some of the things we need to think about."

Discussion also may be lengthy regarding several of the more costly recommendations -- the largest of which is the addition of athletic directors.

Currently, Pittsburgh Public Schools has 53 teachers from elementary through high school levels who work as part-time faculty managers or activity managers. The overhaul committee recommends eliminating those positions and adding nine full-time athletic directors, though the cost would be roughly $450,000.

Still, many recommendations are likely to be approved by the board over the summer -- largely the ones that would raise the district's Title IX compliance. Those include administering students a Title IX survey and engaging community organizations to reach out to female athletes.

"Obviously, the Title IX issues, we have to get those taken care of," Lane said. "We have to expedite them, and I don't think there's a lot of discussion of whether we're going to do that or not."

One heavily debated recommendation was a change to the district's academic eligibility policy.

Currently, Pittsburgh Public Schools students must have a 2.0 grade-point average to participate in extracurricular activities. The change would add an intervention program to give students with a 1.50 to 1.99 average a chance to raise their average in the following nine weeks before being declared ineligible.

Board member Mark Brentley Sr. was strongly opposed to the proposed change. He said he would like the eligibility baseline raised to 2.5 -- the same average required for the district's popular Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program.

"We're not consistent," Brentley said. "Let's say to participate in our athletic program, we're raising the bar, and we've got scholar-athletes on the floor -- not athletes trying to be scholars."

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