by Aaron Garcia
Charlotte Catholic High School sports fans can exhale now – the school gets to permanently keep its longtime home in the state’s largest athletic association.
On May 3, Charlotte Catholic officials learned that a motion to oust the state’s three non-boarding parochial schools from the N.C. High School Athletic Association failed at the organization’s annual board meeting in Chapel Hill.
Charlotte Catholic supporters had become concerned about their sports future in recent weeks after six Rowan County schools proposed an amendment to the organization’s constitution that allows parochial schools Charlotte Catholic, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons and Kernersville Bishop McGuiness to compete against public schools.
The Rowan schools argued that the Catholic schools’ lack of geographic boundaries gave them an unfair advantage over their public counterparts.
In order to amend the constitution, 75 percent of the NCHSAA’s 390 member schools – or a total of 293 votes – were needed to remove the three schools. In all, 285 votes were tallied, with 234 (or 82 percent) voting against allowing the Catholic schools to stay, while 105 votes were not submitted.
Charlotte Catholic has been a member of the NCHSAA since 1962. It faced a similar vote in 1986, but received 54 percent of the vote to maintain its position.
Principal Jerry Healy, who attended last week’s NCHSAA meeting with Charlotte Catholic athletics director Kevin Christmas, said he was relieved by the outcome but acknowledged the high number of votes in favor of removing the parochial schools took him by surprise.
“Somebody else asked me what I thought of the outcome, and I said, ‘Well, an ugly win is still a win,’” said Healy. “I am a little bit surprised. I thought the vote would’ve been a little closer. Thank God for the non-votes, to be honest with you, because I don’t know what would’ve happened if it went the other way.
“We’re happy, and we’re ready to move on.”
While the boundary argument might have been settled with the vote, the financial aid the Catholic schools award to qualifying students also came into question during the process. As a result, the Catholic schools were asked to detail how they award their financial aid in order to show that funds were not being used for athletic scholarships.
Healy explained that all Charlotte Catholic financial aid is awarded by a third party, based on need, and the process is confidential, which ensures the schools do not use the funds to recruit athletes.
“(The NCHSAA executive board members) said they were comfortable as a board that all of that was being handled the right way by an outside agency, and the schools were not involved with it,” Healy said.
While nothing in the NCHSAA’s constitution guarantees that a similar effort won’t be brought to a vote, Executive Director Davis Whitfield said the organization is looking at different ways to keep the same situation from arising in the future.
“We’re looking to see if there’s a way to insert some type of language, or what the process would be to insert some type of language, to make sure this process is vetted, maybe through our board of directors or some other channel before it simply goes out to a vote of the membership,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield also said that given the changing landscape of the current high school structure, the association will strive to be proactive in looking at circumstances surrounding “non-traditional high schools,” such as charter schools, magnet schools and virtual magnet schools, as well as the state’s non-boarding parochial schools.
“Bringing all of those groups together and sitting down and having a well-thought out, well-formulated discussion will be important moving forward,” said Whitfield. “We want to find solutions that make sense for everyone involved.
“Specifically for this committee, it will be looking at those four entities and trying to find ways we can continue to be one strong association and how to move forward with that.”
Healy said he was pleased with the idea.
“We’re going to be part of the dialogue finally,” Healy said. “That is important. Up to now, we haven’t been part of the dialogue.”
But more than anything, Healy said he was pleased that issue seems to have been put to rest for good.
“Right now, it’s over,” Healy said. “We certainly said we’d do everything we can to further assist (the NCHSAA) and further clarify things.
“(Whitfield) came out and said, ‘No one will go through this again. Nobody.’”