The following is your weekly reminder Texas takes its high school football seriously.
University Interscholastic League officials publicly reprimanded the Livingston Independent School District for submitting incorrect enrollment figures in an attempt to reclassify its athletic program from Class 5A to 4A, according to a press release from the UIL’s State Executive Committee. The LISD has also been placed on two years probation to dissuade further misconduct concerning realignment.
The UIL had previously realigned Livingston’s football team from District 18-5A, where the Lions finished with a 2-8 record this past fall, to the 10th district in Region III of Class 4A, Division I. As a result of new enrollment figures, Livingston has been re-realigned (if that’s a word?) to District 22-5A, joining eight teams already in place.
The reconfiguring has rubbed plenty of District 22-5A athletic departments the wrong way, as football teams must now each drop an opponent from their schedules.
“I’d take three non-district games and seven district games over two and eight,” Port Niches-Groves coach Brandon Faircloth told the Beaumont Enterprise. “But this is how it is so we just have to roll with the punches.”
The issue concerning enrollment figures arose when an anonymous whistleblower sent a letter to the UIL, LISD officials and the Polk County Enterprise, alleging LISD superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins hired and coordinated district employees in the move of nearly 100 students to Livingston High School Academy, the school district’s alternative education program for at-risk students ineligible for UIL participation.
Indeed, the academy featured as many as 81 students this past year, according to the Polk County Enterprise. Likewise, students enrolled at LHSA were not included in the figures LISD sent to the UIL (is that enough abbreviations for you?), as required, dropping Livingston’s enrollment from several dozen students above to just below the 1,099-student threshold between Class 4A and 5A, according to multiple reports.
However, Hawkins vehemently denied purposely fudging the enrollment figures while describing the whistleblower as a disgruntled district employee both in an open letter to the community and in more pointed remarks to the Polk County Enterprise:
“I think the letter that went out was very much a personal attack. In my opinion it is a disgruntled employee who has hijacked the situation, misconstrued the facts, and it is trying to make it a conspiracy. When you start thinking about it, what advantage is there for us to go 5A or 4A? Where we were in 4A three years ago, we are in 5A now with the new realignment, but it is the same schools that we were playing three years ago. I fail to see how that jockeys anything into a competitive advantage.”
“The (claim) that is the most profound is they made the accusation that we hired someone to come in and move the students. That is an absolute fabrication of the truth. We hired a person to come in that worked to make sure our career technology students were coded correctly.
“As you read the letter, they had enough knowledge to put things that have happened in there, but then totally misconstrue them. Most would not have known that there were 80 students at the academy. When you read through the tone of the letter, it is an angry person.
“It is somebody that has been in our district that has become upset, and that is unfortunate. That is also in every organization in the United States — there is some employee that is angry. Did we have an employee that came in that worked as a contract labor? We absolutely did, but that employee was working in the special programs. We had a system where one of our employees was responsible for that and that employee is no longer here. We have some positions within our district that have not been filled. School districts are very seasonal in their personnel. The normal person on the outside would have no knowledge of that. Their agenda is to tear down something in our district. With the 600 employees that are here today, our agenda is to build something positive. Whoever wrote that is consumed with anger and hate, and that is not what we are about. I don’t want to engage in that at all. We have a focus that our academy and Livingston High School is graduating kids who are going on to be productive.”
The realignment for Livingston’s other athletic programs will take place at a later date. All changes will remain in effect until 2018, when Livingston’s probation will be lifted.