LHSAA to tackle tough questions in annual convention _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Vic Bonnaffee, President of the Executive Committee of the LHSAA, speaks during a meeting between LHSS and area school officials on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, at the LITE Center.

There is no shortage of questions going into the LHSAA’s annual convention.

Some answers could be revealed when the three-day event begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday with an executive committee meeting at the LHSAA office.

It marks the fifth straight year that classification issues stemming from the conflicts between select and nonselect schools has been at the forefront. But other key issues, including final approval of pay raises for officials, also loom.

“One of my concerns is that people will spend so much time on one issue that they’ll forget about other important items we’re charged with addressing,” LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic said. “That fact is part of the reason why we have some of the problems we have now.

“We’ve spent so much time addressing one issue (the split) and changed some bylaws without understanding that when you make those changes, they conflict with other bylaws and the constitution.

“Our new executive director (Eddie Bonine) comes from a background where making sure things are done legally, within the rules you have, and that parliamentary procedure is followed is important. We need to make sure everyone understands what they’re voting on and that procedures must be followed.”

The convention continues Thursday with the Coca-Cola convention luncheon, workshops and all-important class meetings for principals set for 2:45 p.m. The general assembly vote is set for 9 a.m. Friday.

Events over the past two weeks have led to a heightened sense of uncertainty. On Jan. 15, Bonine held a news conference to announce that the LHSAA’s new attorney, Mark Boyer, issued a legal opinion stating the select/nonselect football championships voted on in 2013 was unconstitutional.

Boyer’s opinion was based on the procedure used to send the split proposal to member principals for the vote. The proposal’s author, Jane Griffin, points to a 29-page legal opinion issued in 2013 that ruled the plan constitutional, even though it went against the LHSAA constitution’s premise that football consisted of five classes.

The constitutionality issues will fall on parliamentarian Brian LeJeune, Boyer and the executive committee, making Wednesday’s meeting crucial. Bonine told principals at area meetings that he wanted all proposals voted on. LeJeune is the superintendent of Jefferson Davis schools.

Since 2013, the LHSAA has divided its football schools into nine playoff divisions: five classes for nonselect or traditional public schools, and four divisions for select schools.

Many Principal Norman Booker wants to expand the split. One Booker proposal would split 2A only along select/nonselect guidelines for basketball, baseball and softball and is set for a vote Thursday. Booker has a similar proposal for all classes on Friday’s agenda for a vote. Advocates of the split note that it was approved with 63 percent of the vote in 2013 and again in 2014 when select divisions were finalized.

A task force formed by Bonine led to the formulation of a rural-metro plan designed to reunite select-nonselect in a six-championship format based on their location to major cities.

Other members of the executive committee have their own proposals. Mandeville Principal Bruce Bundy’s proposal would have the LHSAA return to its original five-class plan. Former LHSAA President Todd Guice and two others authored a plan that would create a 6A super class for football.

“I voted for the split, and I still believe there are inequities,” Bundy said. “Frankly, I’d rather go back to five classes than to the rural-metro plan.

“I still think there are other things we need to look at before splitting everything. For example, some states require schools to play up in class if they draw from a large metropolitan area. Others are asked to move up if their schools give financial aid.”

Bonnaffee pointed to a proposal by Catholic-New Iberia’s Ray Simon as another possible solution. Simon’s proposal would give Bonine the power to deem programs in specific sports as elite and require them to play up in class with approval of the executive committee.

Approval of pay raises for officials in a variety of sports was put into place over the summer when Bonine worked to avoid a potential officials strike. All the pay raises will be voted on together. Failure to approve the raises would likely lead to a strike.

Bonine has said his goal is for the LHSAA to “move forward and agree to disagree,” regardless of what is voted on Friday.

Bonnaffee said he hopes some common ground can be found.

“I’ve been involved with the LHSAA for a long time as a coach and a principal,” Bonnaffee said. “I’ve never seen it so divisive. People listen to defend their point of view, instead of listening to come to conclusions together. Hopefully, people will be willing to listen and work together.”