The interim study regarding the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association that began last week by an Oklahoma House committee has created varying opinions.
The purpose of the study is to examine the conduct of the organization that oversees extracurricular activities, specifically the appeals process, finances and costs of the schools for the OSSAA, and transparency of the organization to see if legislation needs to be proposed regarding the organization.
Three state representatives — Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, Rep. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, and Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville — have spearheaded the proceedings, which continue Tuesday and conclude Oct. 3.
But perhaps no view could be more unique than the view of Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, who has served on all three sides involved in the issue and is not in favor of the study.
She is the former principal at Lawton MacArthur, where she served on the OSSAA board of directors during the 1999-2000 school year before retiring and being elected as a state representative.
Coody recently spoke with The Oklahoman about the hearing.
Q: What is your opinion about this interim study?
A: “Let me just put it this way, the OSSAA is a private organization and it is my belief that any problems and disagreements need to be taken care of by the member schools and their elected representatives on the OSSAA board of directors. I believe in limited government, and I feel that we as legislators have no business interfering with the business of a private organization. Member schools pay dues to be a part of the association, which comprise only five or six percent of the total budget, so this is not an agency of Oklahoma. It's a private organization with membership of schools who choose to pay dues.”
What are your thoughts about the transparency issues the interim study is looking into?
“Well, of course we want transparency. We want transparency in government and an organization of which a school as a member should have transparency when there can be transparency, but the things that the board does in executive session often deals with hardship. I've seen those issues deal with such things as abuse and family dynamics, and as an educator I learned long ago that you just can't discuss those matters with anyone but the family and the staff members who are tasked with that part of administration.”
Did you ever apply for a hardship waiver when you were a principal?
“As the principal at MacArthur, I had a student and his parents who wanted him to be allowed to play another year. They asked me if we could request that and I said, ‘Well, we'll request it and see what happens.' So we went to the board and appeared before the board. I made a request, the student made a request and the parent made a request before the board, and they turned us down. We had hoped they would let him play, but they did not and so we understood that they were in charge of that, that they had to consider all cases in relationship not to just that one case but how it would affect all of the other students who participated in sports in the state of Oklahoma. Even though we were not pleased with the decision, we accepted it because we understood that this board knew more about the situation than we did.
The young man went on to be a manager of the team, and has long since graduated and is a successful adult making a good living and happy life for his family.”
On the outside looking in now, what do you think the OSSAA could improve on or learn from this?
“I think anytime that we hear from people that are unhappy with the situation that we need to look into the methods by which we are doing things and see how those need to be changed. Perhaps we need to contact or have the directors contact their member schools and see how they feel about certain issues so they'll be sure they're representing their schools the way they ought to be represented.”
Have you seen much change with the OSSAA since your term?
“Of course the directors have changed, the executive director of the OSSAA has changed, there's still some on the board now that were there when I was there, there are many news ones too, which is good to have that turnover, but I still believe that they are effective. I think their method of considering things is probably the same method that was used before, but I think it's very important that they listen to concerns and then weigh them with everybody in mind.
Certainly they need to be consistent. There does not to be one rule for one person in one school and another rule for another school, just as an administrator of a school you have to be fair for everyone, so they have to be fair for everyone. I think they try to do that and if they hear from people that say, “Well, we don't feel that you're being fair,” then they probably need to take a look to see what they need to do to work it out.
That's always true of any organization and any leadership position we always have to look at and see if we need to make some changes in the way we do things, but it's not something that the legislature should decide because it is not a government agency.”