Last Friday, the Guam Education Board confirmed its decision to have the Guam Department of Education take stronger oversight over interscholastic high school sports. As superintendent, I take this decision to mean that we will continue moving forward to launch the GDOE Interscholastics Sports Association or ISA beginning with third-quarter sports. Since the education board's directive in May, we have worked very hard to prepare for the third quarter, and we believe we can make this transition happen smoothly. As we do this, I wanted to make clear the following important points, which have been discussed in recent weeks:
Public schools and private schools will continue to compete against each other. Concerns have been raised that private schools would not be able to compete against public schools. However, both Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and members of the education board have expressed their support for maximizing competition between all schools. For this reason, I have invited all non-public schools to participate in ISA, beginning in the third quarter. ISA sports will include boys and girls rugby, boys and girls tennis, girls softball, and boys basketball this quarter. In rugby, softball, and tennis, both public and private schools will compete against each other in full competition. In boys basketball, where there are enough teams to have a public and a private league, we will have modified inter-league competition during the season as well as post-season competition. In fact, we have the schedules ready to go for the third quarter with both public and private schools included. I will continue to work to maximize public-private competition.
Private schools won’t be required to pay a membership fee this year to participate in ISA. Originally, the ISA draft constitution and bylaws included a $150 fee for members, reflecting the same fee that the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam or IIAAG charges its members. However, because the transition is taking place mid-year and teams have already paid the annual IIAAG fee, I am waiving the fee in order to encourage private school participation in ISA. Teams will still be responsible for their share of officiating, medical and other services.
Affiliating students won’t be required to pay to play. The draft ISA constitution and bylaws included a provision to require a $50 fee per sport for students who wished to affiliate with another team (i.e., play with another school because their home school does not have a team). After hearing the concerns from stakeholders, I am deleting this provision from the draft.
My priority is to maximize competition between public and private schools as we launch ISA and work towards a successful third and fourth quarter sports season. Over the longer term, my priority is to engage our interscholastic sports community in a deeper conversation and effort to improve student safety, dispute resolution, field and facility standards, and post-graduation outcomes for all student-athletes. I also intend to invest more resources and attention to supporting coaches, athletic directors and sports officiating. These discussions and improvements will not happen overnight, but it is my hope that we can all work together — our public and private school communities, our sports federations/associations, our medical community, student-athletes and parents — to tackle these issues together for all students.
The GEB has directed me to provide more oversight and strategic direction for our public high school sports program, but I want to assure the public that, in doing so, we will continue to open our arms to public and private competition. Furthermore, we commit to accessibility, transparency and accountability in our work as we bring high school interscholastic sports to a higher level of success.
Jon Fernandez is the Guam Department of Education superintendent